Summary of Accounting Policies
Principles of Consolidation — The consolidated financial statements include the accounts of the Company and all of its subsidiaries in which a controlling interest is maintained. Intercompany balances and transactions are eliminated. Controlling interest is determined by majority ownership interest and the absence of substantive third-party participating rights or, in the case of variable interest entities, by majority exposure to expected losses, residual returns or both. For those consolidated subsidiaries where Merck ownership is less than 100%, the outside shareholders’ interests are shown as Noncontrolling interests in equity. Investments in affiliates over which the Company has significant influence but not a controlling interest, such as interests in entities owned equally by the Company and a third party that are under shared control, are carried on the equity basis.
Acquisitions — In a business combination, the acquisition method of accounting requires that the assets acquired and liabilities assumed be recorded as of the date of the acquisition at their respective fair values with limited exceptions. Assets acquired and liabilities assumed in a business combination that arise from contingencies are generally recognized at fair value. If fair value cannot be determined, the asset or liability is recognized if probable and reasonably estimable; if these criteria are not met, no asset or liability is recognized. Fair value is defined as the exchange price that would be received for an asset or paid to transfer a liability (an exit price) in the principal or most advantageous market for the asset or liability in an orderly transaction between market participants on the measurement date. Accordingly, the Company may be required to value assets at fair value measures that do not reflect the Company’s intended use of those assets. Any excess of the purchase price (consideration transferred) over the estimated fair values of net assets acquired is recorded as goodwill. Transaction costs and costs to restructure the acquired company are expensed as incurred. The operating results of the acquired business are reflected in the Company’s consolidated financial statements after the date of the acquisition. If the Company determines the assets acquired do not meet the definition of a business under the acquisition method of accounting, the transaction will be accounted for as an acquisition of assets rather than a business combination and, therefore, no goodwill will be recorded.
Foreign Currency Translation — The net assets of international subsidiaries where the local currencies have been determined to be the functional currencies are translated into U.S. dollars using current exchange rates. The U.S. dollar effects that arise from translating the net assets of these subsidiaries at changing rates are recorded in the foreign currency translation account, which is included in Accumulated other comprehensive income (loss) (AOCI) and reflected as a separate component of equity. For those subsidiaries that operate in highly inflationary economies and for those subsidiaries where the U.S. dollar has been determined to be the functional currency, non-monetary foreign currency assets and liabilities are translated using historical rates, while monetary assets and liabilities are translated at current rates, with the U.S. dollar effects of rate changes included in Other (income) expense, net.
Cash Equivalents — Cash equivalents are comprised of certain highly liquid investments with original maturities of less than three months.
Inventories — Inventories are valued at the lower of cost or market. The cost of a substantial majority of domestic pharmaceutical and vaccine inventories is determined using the last-in, first-out (LIFO) method for both financial reporting and tax purposes. The cost of all other inventories is determined using the first-in, first-out (FIFO) method. Inventories consist of currently marketed products, as well as certain inventories produced in preparation for product launches that are considered to have a high probability of regulatory approval. In evaluating the recoverability of inventories produced in preparation for product launches, the Company considers the likelihood that revenue will be obtained from the future sale of the related inventory together with the status of the product within the regulatory approval process.
Investments — Investments in marketable debt and equity securities classified as available-for-sale are reported at fair value. Fair values of the Company’s investments are determined using quoted market prices in active markets for identical assets or liabilities or quoted prices for similar assets or liabilities or other inputs that are observable or can be corroborated by observable market data for substantially the full term of the assets or liabilities. Changes in fair value that are considered temporary are reported net of tax in Other Comprehensive Income (OCI). For declines in the fair value of equity securities that are considered other-than-temporary, impairment losses are charged to Other (income) expense, net. The Company considers available evidence in evaluating potential impairments of its investments, including the duration and extent to which fair value is less than cost and, for equity securities, the Company’s ability and intent to hold the investments. For debt securities, an other-than-temporary impairment has occurred if the Company does not expect to recover the entire amortized cost basis of the debt security. If the Company does not intend to sell the impaired debt security, and it is not more likely than not it will be required to sell the debt security before the recovery of its amortized cost basis, the amount of the other-than-temporary impairment recognized in earnings, recorded in Other (income) expense, net, is limited to the portion attributed to credit loss. The remaining portion of the other-than-temporary impairment related to other factors is recognized in OCI. Realized gains and losses for both debt and equity securities are included in Other (income) expense, net.
Revenue Recognition — Revenues from sales of products are recognized when title and risk of loss passes to the customer, typically upon delivery. Recognition of revenue also requires reasonable assurance of collection of sales proceeds and completion of all performance obligations. Domestically, sales discounts are issued to customers at the point-of-sale, through an intermediary wholesaler (known as chargebacks), or in the form of rebates. Additionally, sales are generally made with a limited right of return under certain conditions. Revenues are recorded net of provisions for sales discounts and returns, which are established at the time of sale. In addition, revenues are recorded net of time value of money discounts if collection of accounts receivable is expected to be in excess of one year. Accruals for chargebacks are reflected as a direct reduction to accounts receivable and accruals for rebates are recorded as current liabilities. The accrued balances relative to the provisions for chargebacks and rebates included in Accounts receivable and Accrued and other current liabilities were $198 million and $2.4 billion, respectively, at December 31, 2017 and $196 million and $2.7 billion, respectively, at December 31, 2016.
The Company recognizes revenue from the sales of vaccines to the Federal government for placement into vaccine stockpiles in accordance with Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Interpretation, Commission Guidance Regarding Accounting for Sales of Vaccines and BioTerror Countermeasures to the Federal Government for Placement into the Pediatric Vaccine Stockpile or the Strategic National Stockpile. This interpretation allows companies to recognize revenue for sales of vaccines into U.S. government stockpiles even though these sales might not meet the criteria for revenue recognition under other accounting guidance.
Depreciation — Depreciation is provided over the estimated useful lives of the assets, principally using the straight-line method. For tax purposes, accelerated tax methods are used. The estimated useful lives primarily range from 25 to 45 years for Buildings, and from 3 to 15 years for Machinery, equipment and office furnishings. Depreciation expense was $1.5 billion in 2017, $1.6 billion in 2016 and $1.6 billion in 2015.
Advertising and Promotion Costs — Advertising and promotion costs are expensed as incurred. The Company recorded advertising and promotion expenses of $2.2 billion, $2.1 billion and $2.1 billion in 2017, 2016 and 2015, respectively.
Software Capitalization — The Company capitalizes certain costs incurred in connection with obtaining or developing internal-use software including external direct costs of material and services, and payroll costs for employees directly involved with the software development. Capitalized software costs are included in Property, plant and equipment and amortized beginning when the software project is substantially complete and the asset is ready for its intended use. Capitalized software costs associated with projects that are being amortized over 6 to 10 years (including the Company’s on-going multi-year implementation of an enterprise-wide resource planning system) were $449 million and $452 million, net of accumulated amortization at December 31, 2017 and 2016, respectively. All other capitalized software costs are being amortized over periods ranging from 3 to 5 years. Costs incurred during the preliminary project stage and post-implementation stage, as well as maintenance and training costs, are expensed as incurred.
Goodwill — Goodwill represents the excess of the consideration transferred over the fair value of net assets of businesses acquired. Goodwill is assigned to reporting units and evaluated for impairment on at least an annual basis, or more frequently if impairment indicators exist, by first assessing qualitative factors to determine whether it is more likely than not that the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount. If the Company concludes it is more likely than not that the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount, a quantitative fair value test is performed.
Acquired Intangibles — Acquired intangibles include products and product rights, tradenames and patents, which are initially recorded at fair value, assigned an estimated useful life, and are amortized primarily on a straight-line basis over their estimated useful lives ranging from 2 to 20 years (see Note 8). The Company periodically evaluates whether current facts or circumstances indicate that the carrying values of its acquired intangibles may not be recoverable. If such circumstances are determined to exist, an estimate of the undiscounted future cash flows of these assets, or appropriate asset groupings, is compared to the carrying value to determine whether an impairment exists. If the asset is determined to be impaired, the loss is measured based on the difference between the carrying value of the intangible asset and its fair value, which is determined based on the net present value of estimated future cash flows.
Acquired In-Process Research and Development — Acquired in-process research and development (IPR&D) that the Company acquires through business combinations represents the fair value assigned to incomplete research projects which, at the time of acquisition, have not reached technological feasibility. The amounts are capitalized and are accounted for as indefinite-lived intangible assets, subject to impairment testing until completion or abandonment of the projects. Upon successful completion of each project, Merck will make a determination as to the then useful life of the intangible asset, generally determined by the period in which the substantial majority of the cash flows are expected to be generated, and begin amortization. The Company tests IPR&D for impairment at least annually, or more frequently if impairment indicators exist, by first assessing qualitative factors to determine whether it is more likely than not that the fair value of the IPR&D intangible asset is less than its carrying amount. If the Company concludes it is more likely than not that the fair value is less than the carrying amount, a quantitative test that compares the fair value of the IPR&D intangible asset with its carrying value is performed. If the fair value is less than the carrying amount, an impairment loss is recognized in operating results.
Contingent Consideration — Certain of the Company’s business acquisitions involve the potential for future payment of consideration that is contingent upon the achievement of performance milestones, including product development milestones and royalty payments on future product sales. The fair value of contingent consideration liabilities is determined at the acquisition date using unobservable inputs. These inputs include the estimated amount and timing of projected cash flows, the probability of success (achievement of the contingent event) and the risk-adjusted discount rate used to present value the probability-weighted cash flows. Subsequent to the acquisition date, at each reporting period, the contingent consideration liability is remeasured at current fair value with changes (either expense or income) recorded in earnings.
Research and Development — Research and development is expensed as incurred. Nonrefundable advance payments for goods and services that will be used in future research and development activities are expensed when the activity has been performed or when the goods have been received rather than when the payment is made. Research and development expenses include restructuring costs and IPR&D impairment charges in all periods. In addition, research and development expenses include expense or income related to changes in the estimated fair value measurement of liabilities for contingent consideration.
Collaborative Arrangements — Merck has entered into collaborative arrangements that provide the Company with varying rights to develop, produce and market products together with its collaborative partners. Cost reimbursements between the collaborative partners are recognized as incurred and included in Materials and production costs, Marketing and administrative expenses and Research and development expenses based on the underlying nature of the related activities subject to reimbursement. When Merck is the principal on sales transactions with third parties, the Company recognizes sales, materials and production costs and marketing and administrative expenses on a gross basis. The Company records profit sharing amounts received from its collaborative partners as alliance revenue (within Sales) and profit sharing amounts it pays to its collaborative partners within Materials and production costs. Terms of the collaboration agreements may require the Company to make payments based upon the achievement of certain developmental, regulatory approval or commercial milestones. Upfront and milestone payments payable by Merck to collaborative partners prior to regulatory approval are expensed as incurred and included in Research and development expenses. Payments due to collaborative partners upon or subsequent to regulatory approval are capitalized and amortized over the estimated useful life of the corresponding intangible asset to Materials and production costs provided that future cash flows support the amounts capitalized. Sales-based milestones payable by Merck to collaborative partners are accrued when probable of being achieved and capitalized, subject to cumulative amortization catch-up. The amortization catch-up is calculated either from the time of the first regulatory approval for indications that were unapproved at the time the collaboration was formed, or from time of the formation of the collaboration for approved products. The related intangible asset that is recognized is amortized to Materials and production costs over its remaining useful life, subject to impairment testing.
Share-Based Compensation — The Company expenses all share-based payments to employees over the requisite service period based on the grant-date fair value of the awards.
Restructuring Costs — The Company records liabilities for costs associated with exit or disposal activities in the period in which the liability is incurred. In accordance with existing benefit arrangements, employee termination costs are accrued when the restructuring actions are probable and estimable. When accruing these costs, the Company will recognize the amount within a range of costs that is the best estimate within the range. When no amount within the range is a better estimate than any other amount, the Company recognizes the minimum amount within the range. Costs for one-time termination benefits in which the employee is required to render service until termination in order to receive the benefits are recognized ratably over the future service period.
Contingencies and Legal Defense Costs — The Company records accruals for contingencies and legal defense costs expected to be incurred in connection with a loss contingency when it is probable that a liability has been incurred and the amount can be reasonably estimated.
Taxes on Income — Deferred taxes are recognized for the future tax effects of temporary differences between financial and income tax reporting based on enacted tax laws and rates. The Company evaluates tax positions to determine whether the benefits of tax positions are more likely than not of being sustained upon audit based on the technical merits of the tax position. For tax positions that are more likely than not of being sustained upon audit, the Company recognizes the largest amount of the benefit that is greater than 50% likely of being realized upon ultimate settlement in the financial statements. For tax positions that are not more likely than not of being sustained upon audit, the Company does not recognize any portion of the benefit in the financial statements. The Company recognizes interest and penalties associated with uncertain tax positions as a component of Taxes on income in the Consolidated Statement of Income.
Use of Estimates — The consolidated financial statements are prepared in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States (GAAP) and, accordingly, include certain amounts that are based on management’s best estimates and judgments. Estimates are used when accounting for amounts recorded in connection with acquisitions, including initial fair value determinations of assets and liabilities, primarily IPR&D, other intangible assets and contingent consideration, as well as subsequent fair value measurements. Additionally, estimates are used in determining such items as provisions for sales discounts and returns, depreciable and amortizable lives, recoverability of inventories, including those produced in preparation for product launches, amounts recorded for contingencies, environmental liabilities and other reserves, pension and other postretirement benefit plan assumptions, share-based compensation assumptions, restructuring costs, impairments of long-lived assets (including intangible assets and goodwill) and investments, and taxes on income. Because of the uncertainty inherent in such estimates, actual results may differ from these estimates.
Reclassifications — Certain reclassifications have been made to prior year amounts to conform to the current year presentation.
Recently Issued Accounting Standards — In May 2014, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued amended accounting guidance on revenue recognition that will be applied to all contracts with customers. The objective of the new guidance is to improve comparability of revenue recognition practices across entities and to provide more useful information to users of financial statements through improved disclosure requirements. The new standard permits two methods of adoption: retrospectively to each prior reporting period presented (full retrospective method), or retrospectively with the cumulative effect of adopting the guidance being recognized at the date of initial application (modified retrospective method). The new standard will be effective as of January 1, 2018 and will be adopted using the modified retrospective method. The Company anticipates recording a cumulative-effect adjustment upon adoption increasing Retained earnings by $5 million in 2018. The adoption of the new guidance will also result in some additional disclosures.
In January 2016, the FASB issued revised guidance for the accounting and reporting of financial instruments. The new guidance requires that equity investments with readily determinable fair values currently classified as available for sale be measured at fair value with changes in fair value recognized in net income. The new guidance also simplifies the impairment testing of equity investments without readily determinable fair values and changes certain disclosure requirements. The new standard will be effective as of January 1, 2018 and will be adopted using a modified retrospective approach. The Company anticipates recording a cumulative-effect adjustment upon adoption increasing Retained earnings by $8 million in 2018.
In August 2016, the FASB issued guidance on the classification of certain cash receipts and payments in the statement of cash flows intended to reduce diversity in practice. The new standard is effective as of January 1, 2018 and will be adopted using a retrospective application. The Company does not anticipate any changes to the presentation of its Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows as a result of adopting the new standard.
In October 2016, the FASB issued guidance on the accounting for the income tax consequences of intra-entity transfers of assets other than inventory. Under existing guidance, the recognition of current and deferred income taxes for an intra-entity asset transfer is prohibited until the asset has been sold to a third party. The new guidance will require the recognition of the income tax consequences of an intra-entity transfer of an asset (with the exception of inventory) when the intra-entity transfer occurs. The new standard will be effective as of January 1, 2018 and will be adopted using a modified retrospective approach. The Company anticipates recording a cumulative-effect adjustment upon adoption increasing Retained earnings by approximately $60 million in 2018 with a corresponding increase to deferred tax assets, subject to finalization.
In November 2016, the FASB issued guidance requiring that amounts generally described as restricted cash and restricted cash equivalents be included with cash and cash equivalents when reconciling the beginning-of-period and end-of-period total amounts shown on the statement of cash flows. The new standard is effective as of January 1, 2018 and will be adopted using a retrospective application. The adoption of the new guidance will not have a material effect on the Company’s Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows.
In March 2017, the FASB amended the guidance related to net periodic benefit cost for defined benefit plans that requires entities to (1) disaggregate the current service cost component from the other components of net benefit cost and present it with other employee compensation costs in the income statement within operations if such a subtotal is presented; (2) present the other components of net benefit cost separately in the income statement and outside of income from operations; and (3) only capitalize the service cost component when applicable. Entities must use a retrospective transition method to adopt the requirement for separate presentation in the income statement of service costs and other components and a prospective transition method to adopt the requirement to limit the capitalization of benefit costs to the service cost component. The Company will utilize a practical expedient that permits it to use the amounts disclosed in its pension and other postretirement benefit plan note for the prior comparative periods as the estimation basis for applying the retrospective presentation requirements. The new standard is effective as of January 1, 2018. Net periodic benefit cost (credit) other than service cost was approximately $(510) million and $(530) million for the years ended December 31, 2017 and 2016, respectively, (see Note 14). Upon adoption, these amounts will be reclassified to Other (income) expense, net from their current classification within Materials and production costs, Marketing and administrative expenses and Research and development costs.
In May 2017, the FASB issued guidance clarifying when to account for a change to the terms or conditions of a share-based payment award as a modification. Under the new guidance, modification accounting is required only if the fair value, the vesting conditions, or the classification of the award (as equity or liability) changes as a result of the change in terms or conditions. The new standard is effective as of January 1, 2018 and will be applied to future share-based payment award modifications should they occur.
In February 2016, the FASB issued new accounting guidance for the accounting and reporting of leases. The new guidance requires that lessees recognize a right-of-use asset and a lease liability recorded on the balance sheet for each of its leases (other than leases that meet the definition of a short-term lease). Leases will be classified as either operating or finance. Operating leases will result in straight-line expense in the income statement (similar to current operating leases) while finance leases will result in more expense being recognized in the earlier years of the lease term (similar to current capital leases). The new guidance will be effective for interim and annual periods beginning in 2019 and will be adopted using a modified retrospective approach which will require application of the new guidance at the beginning of the earliest comparative period presented. Early adoption is permitted. The Company is currently evaluating the impact of adoption on its consolidated financial statements.
In August 2017, the FASB issued new guidance on hedge accounting that is intended to more closely align hedge accounting with companies’ risk management strategies, simplify the application of hedge accounting, and increase transparency as to the scope and results of hedging programs. The new guidance makes more financial and nonfinancial hedging strategies eligible for hedge accounting, amends the presentation and disclosure requirements, and changes how companies assess effectiveness. The new guidance is effective for interim and annual periods beginning in 2019 on a modified retrospective basis. Early application is permitted in any interim period. The Company intends to early adopt this guidance as of January 1, 2018 on a modified retrospective basis. The Company anticipates recording a cumulative-effect adjustment upon adoption decreasing Retained earnings by $11 million in 2018.The adoption of the new guidance will result in some additional disclosures.
In February 2018, the FASB issued new guidance to address a narrow-scope financial reporting issue that arose as a consequence of the TCJA. Existing guidance requires that deferred tax liabilities and assets be adjusted for a change in tax laws or rates with the effect included in income from continuing operations in the reporting period that includes the enactment date. That guidance is applicable even in situations in which the related income tax effects of items in accumulated other comprehensive income were originally recognized in other comprehensive income (rather than in net income), such as amounts related to benefit plans and hedging activity. As a result, the tax effects of items within accumulated other comprehensive income do not reflect the appropriate tax rate (the difference is referred to as stranded tax effects). The new guidance allows for a reclassification of these amounts to retained earnings thereby eliminating these stranded tax effects. The new guidance is effective for interim and annual periods in 2019. The Company is currently evaluating the impact of adoption on its consolidated financial statements.
In June 2016, the FASB issued amended guidance on the accounting for credit losses on financial instruments. The guidance introduces an expected loss model for estimating credit losses, replacing the incurred loss model. The new guidance also changes the impairment model for available-for-sale debt securities, requiring the use of an allowance to record estimated credit losses (and subsequent recoveries). The new guidance is effective for interim and annual periods beginning in 2020, with earlier application permitted in 2019. The new guidance is to be applied on a modified retrospective basis through a cumulative-effect adjustment directly to retained earnings in the beginning of the period of adoption. The Company is currently evaluating the impact of adoption on its consolidated financial statements.
In January 2017, the FASB issued guidance that provides for the elimination of Step 2 from the goodwill impairment test. Under the new guidance, impairment charges are recognized to the extent the carrying amount of a reporting unit exceeds its fair value with certain limitations. The new guidance is effective for interim and annual periods in 2020. Early adoption is permitted. The Company does not anticipate that the adoption of the new guidance will have a material effect on its consolidated financial statements.