Pfizer’s stock rises as earnings beat expectations, company seeks ‘clean slate’ in 2024

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Shares of Pfizer Inc.
gained 1% early Tuesday after the company beat analysts’ earnings expectations and reaffirmed its full-year 2024 guidance issued in December.

The drugmaker reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $3.37 billion, or 60 cents a share, compared with net income of $4.995 billion, or 87 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Adjusted earnings per share came to 10 cents, beating the FactSet consensus of a loss of 18 cents per share. Revenues totaled $14.249 billion in the quarter, down 41% from a year earlier and below the FactSet consensus of $14.369 billion.

An anticipated drop in COVID-related product revenues drove most of the year-over-year sales decline, Pfizer said.

Tuesday’s results mark the end of a rocky year for Pfizer, when the company was forced to drastically reduce its full-year sales outlook amid waning demand for its COVID products. The company also faced setbacks in its pipeline. Pfizer said in December that it would halt development of a twice-daily formulation of experimental oral obesity drug danuglipron, after seeing high rates of side effects.

Pfizer is looking to start 2024 with a “clean slate,” CEO Albert Bourla said at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference early this month, with its recent efforts to clear up uncertainty about COVID-related demand and write off some of its inventory of COVID products. The company is also aiming to cut costs by at least $4 billion by the end of this year, with about 70% of the savings coming from research and development. 

Analysts are looking for Pfizer to move past a period of off-base guidance, and many now believe the company has set conservative expectations for 2024. Tuesday’s results “should be a surprise to no one,” given management’s recent guidance and the efforts to reset expectations for the COVID business, BMO Capital Markets analyst Evan David Seigerman wrote in a note Tuesday.

Global sales of Pfizer and BioNTech’s
COVID vaccine Comirnaty totaled $5.36 billion in the fourth quarter, Pfizer said Tuesday, down 53% from a year earlier.

Pfizer on Tuesday reported a $3.5 billion fourth-quarter revenue reversal related to its COVID antiviral Paxlovid. The company previously announced in October that the U.S. government would return about 7.9 million remaining Paxlovid doses that were labeled for use under the COVID-19 antiviral’s emergency use authorization and said it would reverse the associated revenues of about $4.2 billion.

Fourth quarter sales of Pfizer’s Vyndaqel family of drugs, which treat a rare but severe cause of heart disease, grew 41% from a year earlier, to $961 million.

The company’s new vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus, Abrysvo, generated $515 million in sales in the fourth quarter. In RSV, “we should have higher market share,” Bourla said at the J.P. Morgan conference this month. “So we need to fix it.” 

Pfizer is making a big bet on antibody-drug conjugates with its $43 billion acquisition of Seagen, which closed last month. ADCs are a type of targeted cancer treatment that can deliver chemotherapy agents to cancer cells, aiming to minimize damage to healthy cells. 

The drugmaker is looking to launch first-in-patient studies of four new ADC candidates this year, Bourla said in remarks prepared for the company’s Tuesday morning call with analysts.

Pfizer on Tuesday stood behind its full-year 2024 guidance issued in December, saying it expects full-year 2024 revenues of $58.5 billion to $61.5 billion, including about $3.1 billion from Seagen as well as about $8 billion in sales from Comirnaty and Paxlovid, and adjusted earnings per share of $2.05 to $2.25. 

Pfizer shares are down 4.5% in the year to date, while the S&P 500
has gained 3.3%.

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