Merck Says Fourth-quarter Profit Rose 18% on Sales of Erbitux

German drugmaker Merck said Thursday its fourth-quarter profit rose 18% after the company boosted sales of its Erbitux cancer treatment.

Net income rose to 129.5 million euros ($167.4 million) in the three months through Dec. 31 from 109.5 million euros in the same period a year earlier, the company said in a statement. Sales climbed 8.5% to 1.63 billion euros.

"As the above numbers are preliminary figures and because it is still very early in the year, it is too soon to discuss a dividend for 2006 or an outlook for 2007," the company said.

Sales of Erbitux rose 55% to 337 million euros ($435.6 million). Merck sells Erbitux in Europe, while Bristol-Myers Squibb Inc. sells Erbitux in the United States and Canada.

Merck shares gained 0.9% to 90.37 euros ($116.82) in Frankfurt.

Darmstadt-based Merck's other products include the cardiovascular treatment Concor. Merck also recently completed its 10.6 billion euros ($13.9 billion) acquisition of Swiss biotech company Serono, aimed at expanding its range of drugs and share of the global biotechnology market.

Merck, founded as a pharmacy in 1668, is the oldest pharmaceutical business in the world. It has been entirely separate from New Jersey-based Merck & Co. since the end of World War I and employs some 29,000 people.

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