These are troubled times for Merck
Back in October, Merck announced that it would eliminate 4,400 jobs. By the end of the year, it had whacked 3,200, taking a $195 million charge in the process. The company expects additional restructuring costs in 2004, with total annual cost savings of $250 million to $300 million starting in 2005.
For the quarter, sales of Zocor -- the company's cholesterol drug -- fell 30% to $1.21 billion, hurt by increased competition as well as the loss of patent protection outside the U.S. Sales of arthritis treatment Vioxx, on the other hand, almost doubled to $731 million.
At about 15 times 2004 earnings, Merck looks interesting. The question is how the second-largest U.S. drug maker will replace Zocor's $5 billion in annual sales when the drug comes off patent in 2006. It's a question that looms large in the wake of a series of late-stage failures.
But like rivals Pfizer
Will replacing Zocor's $5 billion in annual sales be easy? No. But for a company of such size and resources, Merck in the mid-40s is tempting. If nothing else, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of risk baked in at these levels.
Give us your take on the Merck discussion board.
Jeff Hwang can be reached here.