Boosted by Januvia, Merck bests expectations by a penny

It was Merck's ($MRK) diabetes franchise that saved the quarter for the second-largest pharmaceutical company in the U.S.

Revenue from Januvia jumped 24% to $919 million, while sales of Janumet were up 29% to $392 million. That was compensation for slowing sales of Singulair, still the company's biggest seller. The asthma treatment still managed to bring in $1.34 billion, but that was just a 1% rise. And, beginning in August, the drug will face generic competition, Reuters reports.

Net income was $1.74 billion, or 56 cents a share, a penny more than the average estimates by 18 analysts, reports Bloomberg.

Like for so many of its competitors, investors keep searching its financial results for signs that it will find a way to leap the so-called patent cliff and build value once its top drug falls to generics. Merck did make the Fierce list of biggest R&D spenders in biopharma for 2012. It spent $8.4 billion on research and development last year, down slightly from 2010. 

Citing a research report from Tony Butler of Barclays Capital, Bloomberg reports that Merck has 5 drugs it will focus on for the next two years. Butler points out that Merck, however, raised concerns when it halted a study on a blood thinner. 

"Merck is emerging from a challenging 2011," Butler said. "The stock has been on a path of recovery since last November, but this has been more correlated with the dividend increase and flow into the pharma sector as a whole than a restoration of sentiment around Merck's innovation core."

Shares today were trading slightly higher midmorning at $38.62.

- read the Bloomberg story
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Special Report: Merck - The Biggest R&D Spenders In Biopharma