Pfizer disappoints with unchanged Covid sales forecasts

Vaccine and Covid pill account for half of sales in first quarter of the year

Pfizer kept its outlook for annual sales of its Covid-19 vaccine and treatment, disappointing investors who looked for the products to continue driving growth.

Up to mid-April, Pfizer said it has clinched $32 billion (€30 billion) in 2022 contracts for the vaccine, Comirnaty, and $22 billion for its Covid pill, Paxlovid, the same figures it released three months ago.

Wall Street analysts had estimated about $34 billion in annual sales from Comirnaty, which the company makes in partnership with BioNTech SE, and $27 billion in Paxlovid sales.

Pfizer shares fell 1.2 per cent Tuesday before US markets opened but rebounded to trasde almost 2 per cent higher by mid-morning. Up to close of business on Monday, they had slumped 18 per cent since the start of the year. American depository receipts of BioNTech, which splits Comirnaty profit with Pfizer, rose 1.1 per cent.

The drugmaker also left untouched its forecast for overall full-year revenue of $98 billion to $102 billion. Pfizer’s Covid-fighting products accounted for more than half that forecast as well as more than half its quarterly revenue.

The drugmaker generated $25.7 billion in first-quarter sales, $13.2 billion of which came from Comirnaty, beating Wall Street’s $10.6 billion estimate. More than 80 per cent of the shot’s sales came from outside the US. While Pfizer has dominated the global market for shots, concern remains that demand is tapering off due to excess supply.

Paxlovid sold $1.5 billion in the quarter, missing analysts’ $2.4 billion estimate, with the vast majority of sales coming from the US. Pfizer said it has produced 8 million courses of Paxlovid to date and shipped all of the supply of the treatment.

Growth Prospects

Management will likely face questions on the conference call about its unchanged guidance for sales of its Covid products that investors have been expecting to spur growth. Pfizer is seeking to further expand the market for Covid products in certain populations, including children and the immunocompromised.

Pfizer said it plans to launch a new study of Paxlovid in patients with compromised immune systems in the second half of 2022. These patients have a more difficult time clearing infections, and Pfizer said the study aim to optimise treatment duration.

The company said it expects to submit data to US regulators from a highly-anticipated study of its Covid vaccine in children six months through four years old by late May or early June. The trial has faced significant delays as Pfizer decided to evaluate a three-dose regimen instead of the typical two-dose regimen after the omicron variant impacted its potency.

Pfizer said it anticipates advisory committees from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to meet soon after it submits the data to consider the application.

"Overall, we expect the recent trends to expand access, as well as inquiries received from governments as the virus mutates and causes spikes in infections around the world, to result in increased orders in the coming months," chief executive Albert Bourla said in prepared remarks.

Pfizer said it sees durable Covid-19 revenues propelling growth from 2025 to 2030, according to slides released in advance of the first-quarter earnings call.

Accounting Shift

Excluding Covid-fighting products, Pfizer’s quarterly drug revenues grew about 2 per cent from a year ago, the drugmaker said.

First-quarter profit was $1.62 a share, beating analysts’ average expectation of $1.55.

At the request of US Securities and Exchange Commission, Pfizer has changed how it is accounting for adjusted income. The company now includes in the figure expenses related to milestone payments on partnerships and in-licence agreements. Based on the same accounting change, Pfizer lowered its forecast range for adjusted 2022 earnings by 10 cents to $6.25 to $6.45 a share. – Bloomberg

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