Merck climbs on strong hep C drug sales, guidance boost

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Sales of a hepatitis C medicine made by Merck jumped sharply in the first quarter, helping the company beat Wall Street earnings estimates.

The pharmaceuticals group generated $367m from sales of the hepatitis-C drug, Zepatier, compared to $50m in the same period of last year. Analysts had typically been expecting the medicine to generate revenues of $269m.

Merck’s vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), known as Gardasil, also performed far better than analysts were expecting, generating $532m in sales versus expectations of $361 and last year’s figure of $378m.

Shares in Merck were up 1.64 per cent in pre-market trading in New York.

The group posted adjusted earnings per share of 88 cents on revenues of $9.4bn for the first quarter, handily beating the typical analyst forecast for adjusted EPS of 83 cents on sales of $9.25bn.

The company also raised its outlook on full year revenue to between $39.1bn-$40.3bn, up from its previous forecast of $38.6bn-$40.1bn. Full year GAAP earnings per share are now expected to come in at between $2.51 and $2.63 per share, compared to the $2.47-$2.62 range it was forecasting just three months ago.

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