Pfizer on Tuesday he posted a surprise adjusted fourth quarter earningsas the declining Covid business lost less revenue than expected.
The company turned around $3.5 billion in revenue related to the US government’s expected recall of 6.5 million doses of its Covid drug, Paxlovid. This bump is less than the 4.2 billion dollars Pfizer originally expected to return nearly 8 million doses of Paxlovid.
Pfizer’s Covid vaccine posted revenue of $5.36 billion for the quarter, down 53% from the same period last year. Analysts had expected the shot to bring in sales of $4.99 billion, according to FactSet estimates.
The results come as Pfizer tries to ease a rapid decline in its Covid business, which saw demand plummet to new lows and shift to the US commercial market last year. As revenue suffers, the company is trying to improve its results and boost investor confidence through a broad $4 billion cost-cutting plan.
Here’s what Pfizer reported for the fourth quarter compared to what Wall Street expected, based on a survey of analysts from LSEG, formerly Refinitiv:
- Earnings per share: 10 cents per share adjusted against a loss of 22 cents expected
- Income: $14.25 billion versus $14.42 billion expected
The pharmaceutical giant also reiterated its full-year 2024 guidance, which it first outlined in mid-December.
Pfizer expects revenue of $58.5 billion to $61.5 billion this year, which includes about $8 billion in revenue from Covid products and contributions from its recently closed acquisition of cancer drug developer Seagen.
The company expects to post adjusted earnings of $2.05 to $2.25 per share.
Pfizer reported revenue of $14.25 billion for the fourth quarter, down 41% from the same period a year ago, due to a plunge in sales of Covid products.
For the fourth quarter, Pfizer posted a net loss of $3.37 billion, or 60 cents per share. That compares with net income of $4.99 billion, or 87 cents per share, in the same period a year ago.
Excluding certain items, the company reported earnings per share of 10 cents for the quarter.
However, Pfizer’s Covid business had a dismal 2023.
Revenue from the Covid vaccine and Paxlovid reached $12.5 billion in 2023. This is down 78% from a peak of $57 billion in 2022.
Excluding Covid products, Pfizer said fourth-quarter revenue rose 8% operationally.
The company said growth was fueled in part by its new respiratory syncytial virus vaccine, which entered the market in the third quarter for the elderly and expectant mothers. The plan, known as Abrysvo, posted sales of $515 million for the fourth quarter.
Pfizer aims to increase RSV market share by establishing vaccination as a “year-round conversation” and expanding the company’s retail contracts and offerings, Chief Executive Albert Burla said during an earnings conference call on Tuesday.
With Abrysvo, we are focused on increasing overall RSV market growth and market share by establishing RSV vaccination as a year-round conversation and expanding our retail contracts and offerings.
The company said revenue was also boosted by strong sales of its Vyndaqel drugs, which are used to treat a certain type of cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle. These drugs booked sales of $961 million, up 41% from the fourth quarter of 2022.
Pfizer also said the blood thinner Eliquis, which is co-marketed by Bristol Myers Squibb, helped drive that growth. The drug posted revenue of $1.61 billion for the quarter, up 9% from the same period a year ago. Analysts had expected Eliquis to have $1.52 billion in sales, according to FactSet.
A non-Covid product category fared worse than Pfizer had hoped. A group of shots to protect against pneumococcal pneumonia brought in $1.60 billion in sales for the fourth quarter. That was down 8% from the same quarter last year due to lower demand and what the company called “adverse timing of customer orders.” Analysts expected this shooting team to have sales of $1.97 billion, according to FactSet.
Wells Fargo analyst Mohit Bansal said disappointing sales for this group of shots, which Pfizer calls the Prevnar family, could be a concern.
Bansal noted that Merck has offered encouraging comments about the outlook for its pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine franchise, so he expects Pfizer to take questions during its fourth-quarter earnings call about how it plans to defend that part of her business.
The results cap a difficult year for a company that once saw income soaring after delivering the world’s first Covid vaccine.
Pfizer shares fell about 40% in 2023 as demand for the shot and other Covid products fell globally, prompting the company to dramatically cut its full-year revenue forecast, record multibillion-dollar charges related to inventory write-downs and embark on a sweeping cost-cutting program.
Additionally, Pfizer’s future in the booming weight-loss drug market began to look bleak last month. The company withdrew a twice-daily version of the experimental weight-loss pill after obese patients taking the drug lost significant weight but had trouble tolerating the drug in a mid-stage clinical study.
Investors expect the company to reveal data on a once-daily form of this drug, called danuglipron, in the first half of the year.
Pfizer is hoping for a $43 billion acquisition of Seagen, which officially closed during the fourth quarter, it will restore investor confidence. Last month, the company made it clear it was doubling down on cancer treatments after revealing plans to create one new oncology department which includes Seagen in early 2024.
“Completing the Seagen acquisition doubled our oncology research and resources overnight,” Bourla said during the call, adding that Seagen’s drugs are expected to “immediately increase” Pfizer’s top-line growth.
But Wall Street remains skeptical about whether Pfizer can turn things around: The company’s stock is already down more than 4% for the year, putting its market value at about $155 billion.