Merck reaffirms outlook for 2005, 2006

Thursday, December 15th 2005, 11:10 am
By: News On 6

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. (AP) _ The drugmaker Merck & Co. reaffirmed its earnings guidance for this year and 2006 on Thursday and forecast mid-single digit revenue growth out to 2010.

Merck has been under pressure from shareholders to demonstrate that it can resume profit growth following the withdrawal of Vioxx, one of its top-selling drugs, from the market in 2004. It recently announced plans to cut 7,000 jobs.

On Thursday, it said that it plans to focus its research and development resources on the areas of Alzheimer's disease, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, novel vaccines, obesity, cancer, pain and sleep disorders.

The company reaffirmed its earnings per share guidance of $2.04 to $2.10 for 2005, or $2.47 to $2.51 excluding one-time charges, and $1.98 to $2.12 for 2006, or $2.28 to $2.36 excluding charges.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expect earnings per share of $2.51 in 2005 and $2.35 in 2006. Those estimates typically exclude charges.

The company also estimated revenue growth of 4 percent to 6 percent out until 2010, while trimming spending on each of its brands by 15 percent to 20 percent. Merck booked sales of $22.94 billion in 2004.