Investing.com -- Shares in Merck & Company Inc (NYSE: MRK ) fell in early U.S. trading on Thursday, reversing premarket gains, as investors eyed first-quarter sales that beat analysts' estimates despite slipping by just under a tenth.
Sales at the drugmaker dropped by 8.9% year-on-year to $14.49 billion in the opening three months of its current fiscal period. Bloomberg consensus estimates had seen the figure at $13.76B.
On an adjusted basis, earnings per share moved down to $1.40 from $2.14 in the corresponding timeframe last year, but topped projections of $1.33.
The top-line slump stemmed from flagging post-pandemic demand for Merck (NS: PROR )'s COVID pill molnupiravir, although this fall was largely anticipated. When removing molnupiravir, which is commonly sold under the name Lagevrio, sales grew by more than 10%.
Merck's popular cancer immunotherapy Keytruda and human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil helped offset this decrease as well. Sales of Keytruda jumped by a fifth to $5.8B, while revenue generated by Gardasil surged by 35% to $2.0B.
With the returns in mind, Merck raised its full-year financial guidance. Adjusted earnings per share is now expected to come at $6.88 to $7.00 in 2023, up from the prior range of $6.80 to $6.95. Sales are also projected at between $57.5B to $58.9B, an improvement from the previous band of $57.2B to $58.7B.
The figures come after Merck announced earlier this month that it had agreed to acquire California-based biotechnology firm Prometheus Biosciences in a deal valued at approximately $10.8B. Merck said the move will add "diversity" to its overall portfolio of treatments.
Adding to its drug pipeline has become a major strategic objective for Merck as it looks to soften the blow from the eventual expiration of its exclusive patent for Keytruda later this decade.
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