Merck KGaA backs annual forecast on receding currency headwinds, as Q1 sales growth led by Bavencio, Mavenclad

Headline results for the first quarter:

Healthcare sales

1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion)

+3.2%

Revenue

3.7 billion euros ($4.1 billion; in line with forecasts)

+7.5%

Profit

189 million euros ($212 million)

-44.7%

Note: All changes are versus the prior-year period unless otherwise stated

What the company said:

"We achieved organic sales growth in all three of our business sectors," remarked CEO Stefan Oschmann, adding "regionally, Asia is a particularly strong growth market."

Other results:

  • Rebif: 299 million euros ($335 million), down 14.2 percent, mainly as a result of the "persistently challenging competitive environment" in North America
  • Erbitux: 199 million euros ($223 million), down 0.3 percent, with organic growth of 1.6 percent more than offset by exchange rate effects
  • Gonal-f: 168 million euros ($188 million), up 1.2 percent
  • Mavenclad: 43 million euros ($48 million), up from 13 million euros ($15 million) in the prior year
  • Bavencio: 22 million euros ($25 million), up 76.6 percent
  • Life Sciences: 1.7 billion euros ($1.9 billion), up 11.7 percent, driven by all three business units

Looking ahead:

Merck expects overall sales to be between 15.3 billion euros ($17.2 billion) and 15.9 billion euros ($17.8 billion) this year, representing "moderate organic growth" of 3 percent to 5 percent. The company added that the US dollar and various emerging market currencies developed more favourably than assumed at the beginning of the year, with exchange rate changes now seen to have a slightly positive effect of 0 percent to 2 percent on net sales growth having previously been estimated to weigh down results by 1 percent to 2 percent.

Meanwhile, Merck said it forecasts earnings of between 4.15 billion euros ($4.7 billion) and 4.35 billion euros ($4.9 billion), representing a "strong organic increase" of 10 percent to 13 percent. The company noted that due to the updated exchange rate assumption, foreign exchange movements are forecast to have a slightly positive effect of 0 percent to 2 percent, having previously been seen lowering earnings by between 3 percent and 4 percent.

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