Quarterly sales of Merck & Co.'s Keytruda cross $2 billion for first time

Headline results for the fourth quarter:

Pharmaceutical product sales

$9.8 billion

+6%

Revenue

$11 billion (in line with forecasts)

+5%

Profit

$1.8 billion

Loss of $1 billion

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

What the company said:

"The fourth-quarter and full-year results further bolster our confidence in Merck's innovation-based strategy," remarked CEO Kenneth Frazier, adding "we enter 2019 with good momentum"

Other results:

  • Keytruda: $2.2 billion, up 66 percent, ahead of estimates of $2.1 billion
  • Januvia/Janumet: $1.5 billion, down 4 percent
  • Gardasil/Gardasil 9: $835 million, up 32 percent
  • Proquad/M-M-R II/Varivax: $455 million, up 13 percent
  • Isentress: $280 million, down 9 percent
  • Bridion: $256 million, up 23 percent
  • Zetia/Vytorin: $245 million, down 52 percent
  • Nuvaring: $216 million, up 15 percent
  • Simponi: $220 million, up 1 percent
  • Remicade: $123 million,  down 34 percent
  • Full-year pharmaceutical product sales: $37.7 billion, up 6 percent
  • Full-year revenue: $42.3 billion, up 5 percent
  • Full-year profit: $6.2 billion, versus $2.4 billion in the prior year

Looking ahead:

Merck expects sales in 2019 of between $43.2 billion and $44.7 billion, with earnings per share in the range of $4.57 to $4.72. Analysts predict annual sales of $44.2 billion, on earnings of $4.69 per share.

What analysts said:

Citi Research analyst Andrew Baum remarked "Merck's in-line [fourth-quarter performance] and 2019 guidance are solid, although underwhelming relative to consensus expectations."

Evercore analyst Umer Raffat noted that sales of Keytruda lagged by $15 million in the US, but posted a "large beat" outside the US. "Keytruda US just went from less than $800 million in the fourth quarter of 2017 to about $1.25 billion in the fourth quarter of 2018," he said, "and this ramp doesn't include additional indications (uses) on the horizon."  

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