Merck KGaA has posted a solid set of figures for the third quarter, driven by cost-cutting and continued healthy sales for its multiple sclerosis blockbuster Rebif.

In spite of "the massive headwinds from foreign exchange effects", earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation and one-time items rose 10% to 830.7 million euros. Revenues slipped 3.1% to 2.75 billion euros, due to the negative currency effects.

Sales at the Merck Serono drugs unit decreased 3.4% to 1.57 billion euros. In terms of organic growth (ie excluding currency shifts), Rebif (interferon beta-1a) fell 3.4% to 460 million euros, but the colorectal/head and neck cancer drug Erbitux (cetuximab) rose 8.2% to 223 million euros.

The fertility drug Gonal-f (follitropin) slipped 0.8% to 137 million euros, while the beta blocker Concor (bisoprolol) franchise climbed 19.3% to 100 million euros. Merck's Glucophage (metformin) diabetes products were up 8.3% to 98 million euros, while the growth hormone treatment Saizen (somatropin) inched up 0.9% to 61 million euros.

Full-year EBITDA is now projected to be in the region of 3.20-3.25 billion euros, up from a previous forecast of 3.10-3.20 billion euros. Merck said that "in addition to moderate organic sales growth, the main reason for this is the accelerated implementation of savings measures".

Merck has been restructuring of late and chairman Karl-Ludwig Kley said the result "illustrates once again that the transformation of our company is well on track". He added that the Darmstadt-based group "is already stronger today and more profitable than when it started the change process a few years ago".