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Costs of Recall Hurt Merck's Results; Lilly's Profit Is Up

Oct 22, 2004 | BLOOMBERG NEWS

Merck & Company said yesterday that third-quarter earnings plunged 29 percent after the recall of its Vioxx painkiller. Another drug maker, Eli Lilly & Company, showed an increased profit with new lung-cancer and depression medicines and said it would eliminate jobs to pare expenses.

Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., said net income declined to $1.33 billion, or 60 cents a share, from $1.86 billion, or 82 cents, a year earlier. The decline was the fourth in five quarters. Sales fell 4 percent, to $5.54 billion.

Merck was expected to report a profit of 71 cents a share, excluding some costs, based on the average estimate of 25 analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

Most analysts had expected the company to take the full expense of the Vioxx recall during the fourth quarter, according to Tony Plohoros, a spokesman for Merck.

Merck said initial costs of withdrawing Vioxx from the market reduced net income by $552.6 million, or 25 cents. The expenses included customer returns and marketing and administrative expenses. Vioxx accounted for $2.5 billion, or 11 percent, of the company's sales last year.

The company said it had not established any reserves for potential liability for the more than 300 Vioxx lawsuits that were filed by Oct. 15. The suits include about 900 plaintiff groups contending that use of Vioxx caused personal injuries.

Shares of Merck lost 14 cents, to $31.26.

For the current quarter, earnings will fall to 48 cents to 53 cents a share, Merck said. Net income in the year-earlier fourth quarter was 62 cents.

Earnings at Eli Lilly, which is based in Indianapolis, rose 5.7 percent, to $755.2 million, or 69 cents a share, from $714.4 million, or 66 cents, on sales of new products like the antidepressant Cymbalta. Sales rose 4.5 percent, to $3.28 billion from $3.14 billion.

In August, Lilly began marketing Cymbalta and won wider approval for the lung cancer drug Alimta. Sidney Taurel, the chief executive, is counting on those and other new drugs to make up for declining sales of Zyprexa, a schizophrenia pill that is Lilly's biggest revenue producer.

Revenue from Zyprexa, the nation's fifth-ranking drug in sales last year, dropped 9 percent, to $1.02 billion. Demand has been falling because the treatment may carry an increased risk of weight gain over time.

Lilly also raised the number of its planned job cuts to 1,000, from the 575 announced last week.

The job cuts were disappointing because they were unexpected, said Steven Sean Hill, a manager at the First Investors Corporation, which has $3 billion under management including 243,000 Lilly shares as of June 30.

"I am disappointed in the size of the restructuring program, and I'm very worried about Zyprexa and that it's losing sales faster than I would have expected," Mr. Hill said.

Shares of Lilly fell $2.46, to $52.64.

The Schering-Plough Corporation, based in Kenilworth, N.J., posted its first profit in more than a year with net income of $26 million in the third quarter, helped by revenue from the cholesterol medicines Vytorin and Zetia.

Shares of Schering rose 26 cents, to $16.98.

Profit was 1 cent a share, in contrast to a net loss of $265 million, or 18 cents, a year earlier. Revenue declined 1 percent, to $1.98 billion from $2 billion.

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