By Ludwig Burger

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Merck KGaA on Thursday was more upbeat about its worst-case scenario for full-year earnings, as patients previously deterred by lockdown measures begin to seek the company’s treatments again.

Merck said core earnings before special items in 2020 would likely be between 4.45 billion euros ($5.3 billion) and 4.85 billion euros, raising the lower end of the target range from 4.35 billion.

Last year, it posted a figure of 4.39 billion euros.

“The latest forecast assumes that there will be no widespread lockdowns owing to further disease waves (in China, Europe and the United States) leading to considerably negative consequences for the economic recovery,” it said in a statement.

Second-quarter adjusted EBITDA declined 5.7% to 1.1 billion euros, the healthcare and chemicals company said, in line with the average analyst estimate in a Refinitiv poll.

Merck’s fertility business was hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, with quarterly sales dropping almost 40% in local currencies to 190 million euros as most fertility clinics closed. They are now opening up again, it added.

The ramp-up of its new multiple sclerosis pill Mavenclad was also dampened, with sales growing by a slower-than-expected 36% to 82 million euros, but signs of an upswing in prescription rates emerged in June, Merck said.

($1 = 0.8418 euros)

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Maria Sheahan)