"Merck delivered a reasonable operating performance in the face of a difficult year-over-year comparison," said Karl-Ludwig Kley, Chairman of the Executive Board of Merck. "During the first quarter, we kicked off our efficiency program and announced the first planned initiatives as part of this transformation. Our focus during 2012 will be to deliver a solid operational performance while bringing our cost structure more in line with our competitors and peers."
Gross profit declined 1.5% to € 1,896 million from € 1,925 million in the first quarter of 2011, resulting in a first-quarter gross profit margin of 74.0% of sales, compared to 77.7% in the first quarter of 2011.
The operating result (EBIT) fell to € 311 million (Q1 2011: € 530), mainly due to lower operational performance and a one-time capital gain of € 157 million generated from the divestment of the Crop BioScience business in the first quarter of 2011. EBITDA pre declined to € 675 million, or 26.3% of sales, in the first quarter of 2012 from € 737 million, or 29.7% of sales, in the year-ago quarter. The Group's EBITDA pre in the first quarter of 2012 excluded € 30 million in one-time costs recorded under other operating expenses.
Merck's financial result remained largely in line with last year, improving to € -65 million in the first quarter of 2012 compared to € -68 million in the year-ago quarter. Net financial debt as of March 31, 2012, declined to € 3,017 million from € 3,484 million at the end of 2011. This improvement reflects the ongoing good cash flow generation of the Group.
The Merck Group's first-quarter 2012 profit before tax declined 47% to € 246 million compared to € 461 million in the year-ago quarter, which was inflated by the € 157 million gain on the divestment of the Crop BioScience business. The reported income tax ratio was 28.2% in the first quarter 2012, increasing from 25.4% in the first quarter of 2011.
About Merck KGaA
Merck is a global pharmaceutical and chemical company with total revenues of € 10.3 billion in 2011, a history that began in 1668, and a future shaped by more than 40,000 employees in 68 countries. Its success is characterized by innovations from entrepreneurial employees. Merck's operating activities come under the umbrella of Merck KGaA, in which the Merck family holds an approximately 70% interest and free shareholders own the remaining approximately 30%. In 1917 the U.S. subsidiary Merck & Co. was expropriated and has been an independent company ever since.