First-quarter sales in Merck KGaA's healthcare unit fall on currency effects, return of Kuvan rights

Merck KGaA announced Thursday that first-quarter sales in its healthcare unit slipped 2.4 percent year-over-year to 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion), with organic sales growth of 5.4 percent more than offset by negative foreign exchange effects of 6.8 percent. The company added that the previously disclosed return of the rights to Kuvan to BioMarin Pharmaceuticals also lowered sales by 1 percent.

According to the company, the healthcare business grew organically in all regions except for Europe. For specific products, quarterly sales of Rebif reached 422 million euros ($473 million), with an organic decline of 1.5 percent and negative currency effects of 0.2 percent. Meanwhile, revenue from Erbitux was flat at 207 million euros ($232 million), with sales of Gonal-f growing 17 percent organically to 187 million euros ($210 million).

Three-monthly revenue in Merck KGaA's life science business surged 89.3 percent to 1.4 billion euros ($1.6 billion), with the acquisition of Sigma-Aldrich boosting sales by 81.6 percent or 602 million euros ($676 million). The company's overall sales climbed 20.5 percent to 3.7 billion euros ($4.2 billion), in line with analyst estimates, while net income more than doubled to 591 million euros ($663 million).

"We started off 2016 well and have grown profitably," remarked CEO Stefan Oschmann, who assumed the position last month, adding "for 2016 we continue to expect slight organic growth for the Merck Group." The company forecasts annual sales of between 14.8 billion euros ($16.6 billion) and 15 billion euros ($16.8 billion), below analyst estimates of 15.2 billion euros ($17 billion).

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