October 25, 2018 / 11:15 AM / in 21 days

Drugmaker Merck beats profit estimate on Keytruda strength

FILE PHOTO: The Merck logo is seen at a gate to the Merck & Co campus in Linden, New Jersey, U.S., July 12, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

(Reuters) - Merck & Co Inc reported a bigger-than-expected third-quarter profit on Thursday, driven by higher demand for its blockbuster cancer immunotherapy Keytruda, and the U.S. drugmaker announced a $10 billion share buyback.

The company raised its full-year adjusted earnings forecast, but narrowed its revenue expectation to account for a hit from a stronger dollar.

Sales of Keytruda, which helps the immune system fight cancer, rose 80.4 percent to $1.89 billion from a year earlier and topped estimates of $1.87 billion, according to six analysts polled by Refinitiv.

Merck raised and tightened its full-year adjusted earnings forecast to a range $4.30 to $4.36 per share, from its prior view of $4.22 to $4.30.

The company narrowed its full-year revenue forecast to between $42.1 billion and $42.7 billion. It had previously forecast full-year sales of $42 billion to $42.8 billion.

Merck reported net income of $1.95 billion, or 73 cents per share, in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with a loss of $56 million, or 2 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, Merck earned $1.19 per share, beating analysts’ average estimate of $1.14, according to Refinitiv data.

Revenue rose 4.5 percent to $10.79 billion, but missed Wall Street expectation of $10.88 billion.

Sales of diabetes drug Januvia and related Janumet fell 2.3 percent to $1.49 billion, also missing estimates of about $1.51 billion.

Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph and Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

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