Merck's 2009 estimates disappoint Street

Analysts were disappointed with Merck's 2009 earnings estimates--and when analysts aren't happy, nobody's happy. The drugmaker's stock is already suffering on the news that it predicts revenue to fall off by about 3 percent and profits to drop 6 percent. That leaves earnings at $3.15 to $3.30 a share, excluding restructuring costs, which, given the company's layoff program, should be considerable. Analysts had expected earnings of $3.52 per share on 3 percent revenue growth.

The company is hanging onto its pledge of increasing shareholder value, saying its strong balance sheet will help prop up dividends at their current levels. Plus, the company says it will be able to repurchase some stock--to shore up the share price--and "take advantage of strategic opportunities," which we read to be "pipeline-boosting biotech deals."

- see the Merck release
- read the Wall Street Journal story