Merck quarterly sales just miss Wall St. estimate

(Reuters) - Merck & Co Inc reported quarterly sales that were slightly lower than expected, hurt by competition from cheaper generic medicines, and predicted full-year earnings at the lower end of analysts' expectations.

The second-biggest U.S. drugmaker said on Wednesday it earned $781 million (479 million pounds), or 26 cents per share, in the fourth quarter. That compared with $908 million, or 30 cents per share, in the year-earlier period.

Revenue fell 4 percent to $11.32 billion. Wall Street was expecting $11.36 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Merck predicted full-year earnings, excluding special items, of $3.35 to $3.53 per share. The average analyst estimate was $3.48 per share.

Separately, Merck said it plans to test its closely followed immuno-oncology drug MK-3475 in combination with medicines being developed by rival drugmakers Pfizer Inc , Amgen Inc , Incyte Corp .

(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Bernadette Baum)