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Merck KGaA lifts outlook on drugs, screen chemicals

DARMSTADT, Germany (Reuters) - Merck KGaA lifted its 2012 outlook on Thursday and beat expectations for third-quarter results as it capitalized on its strong position in the market for chemicals for flat screens.

Family-controlled Merck, which traces its roots to a 17th century pharmacy, now expects adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) this year of 2.90-2.95 billion euros ($3.7-$3.75 billion).

That is the upper half of its previous target range and compares with 2.9 billion euros expected on average by analysts.

Merck also benefited from continue price increases in the U.S. for multiple sclerosis drugs, where the company sells its established Rebif injection, and from an ongoing cost cutting program.

Third-quarter adjusted EBITDA rose 15.6 percent to 754 million euros, above a forecast for 740 million in a Reuters poll. Revenues also exceeded expectations.

Merck's dominant position in the market for liquid crystals for flat-panel displays allows it to hold its own even as economic uncertainty puts consumers off big-ticket purchases such as pricey flat-screen TVs. Soaring tablet computer sales also help Merck.

The company is slashing costs and jobs after a number of setbacks in drugs development left it without any significant pharmaceuticals in its late-stage development pipeline.

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger)