Merck & Co on Thursday reported weaker-than-expected quarterly sales and predicted relatively flat 2012 results as the No. 2 drugmaker girds for cheaper generic forms of its biggest product, asthma drug Singulair.

Merck posted a net fourth-quarter profit of $1.51 billion, or 49 cents per share, compared with a loss of $531 million, or 17 cents a share, a year ago, when the company took a $1.7 billion charge related to a major clinical setback.

Excluding items, including acquisition and restructuring expenses, Merck earned 97 cents per share. Analysts on average expected 95 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Global revenue rose 2 percent to $12.29 billion, just shy of Wall Street expectations of $12.53 billion.

(Reporting By Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)