Merck's profit up 7 percent despite sales decline

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. - Merck & Co.'s (MRK) first-quarter profit rose 7 percent, as heavy cost-cutting offset lower sales due to generic competition and a tax benefit in last year's quarter.

The maker of the type 2 diabetes pill Januvia says net income was $1.71 billion, or 57 cents per share, up from $1.59 billion, or 52 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, net income would have been $2.6 billion, or 88 cents per share. Analysts surveyed by FactSet were expecting 79 cents per share.

Revenue totaled $10.26 billion. Analysts expected $10.44 billion.

Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., reaffirmed its 2014 forecast for profit of $2.15 to $2.47 per share.