Pfizer tops 3rd quarter earnings views, makes progress on COVID shot

Drugmaker Pfizer saw its third-quarter profit plunge 71%, mainly due to an $8.1 billion gain a year earlier from selling its consumer health care business to a GlaxoSmithKline joint venture, but managed to top Wall Street expectations.

Meanwhile, the New York-based company today said disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic reduced medicine sales in the U.S. and China by about $500 million. Pfizer raised and narrowed its profit forecasts slightly for all of 2020.

Pfizer, one of the leaders in the race to develop a vaccine against COVID-19, said the final-stage trial of its vaccine candidate has now enrolled nearly all of the planned 44,000 participants worldwide. Nearly 36,000 had received the second shot of the two-dose vaccine as of Monday. The company could seek approval for emergency use from U.S. regulators in late November.

Pfizer already has contracts with the United States, the European Union and about 10 countries to supply hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine next year, assuming it wins approval.

The maker of the world’s top-selling vaccine, Prevnar 13 for preventing pneumonia and related bacterial diseases, reported net income of $2.2 billion, or 39 cents per share, down from $7.7 billion, or $1.36 per share, in 2019’s third quarter.

Excluding one-time items, adjusted income came to $4.1 billion, or 72 cents per share. That beat Wall Street expectations by 2 cents, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research.

Revenue totaled $12.1 billion, down 4% from $12.7 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Pfizer said it now expects 2020 adjusted earnings per-share of $2.88 to $2.93, tweaked from its July forecast of $2.85 to $2.95. It expects revenue of $48.8 billion to $49.5 billion, narrowed from its previous forecast of $48.6 billion to $50.6 billion.

The biggest U.S. drugmaker by revenue is in the process of spinning off its established products business, which sells mostly off-patent medicines, to combine it with generic drug maker Mylan.

That deal is expected to close by year-end, leaving Pfizer roughly 20% smaller, nimbler and more focused on developing innovative medicines. Pfizer expects to be able to grow revenue at least 6% annually through 2025 as a result of the transformation.

Pfizer shares have decreased 3% since the beginning of the year, while the S&P 500 index has increased slightly more than 5%. The stock has climbed 4% in the past 12 months.