Drugmaker Pfizer starts low with 2023 earnings forecast

Pfizer surprised Wall Street by predicting a bigger-than-expected sales drop this year for two key products: its COVID-19 vaccine and treatment.

The drugmaker also released on Tuesday an earnings forecast that starts off below analyst expectations as Pfizer begins what company leaders call a transition year for sales tied to the ongoing pandemic.

Pfizer expects revenue from both the vaccine Comirnaty and the treatment Paxlovid to tumble next year before starting to rebound. That drop was anticipated by analysts as the drugmaker moves from supplying governments through big contracts to selling both products on the commercial market.

Pfizer said Tuesday that it expects Comirnaty sales to tumble 64% to about $13.5 billion this year. It predicts a 58% drop for Paxlovid to about $8 billion.

That combined total of $21.5 billion falls about $3 billion short of what Wall Street expects from both products.

Commercial sales of the vaccine and treatment are expected to start later this year in the U.S. While revenue from both will fall in 2023, analysts still expect the vaccine and treatment to each contribute billions of dollars in annual sales for the next several years.

Overall, Pfizer predicts that adjusted earnings will range between $3.25 and $3.45 per share in the new year, when it also expects research and development expenses to jump.

Analysts forecast earnings of $4.34 per share, according to FactSet.

In the recently completed fourth quarter, Pfizer booked nearly half of its $24.29 billion in revenue from the top-selling COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty. The company brought in another $1.8 billion from Paxlovid.

Outside Comirnaty and Paxlovid, Pfizer also makes several primary care drugs and cancer treatments. But vaccines have quickly become a key element of its business.

Sales of Pfizer’s Prevnar vaccines for preventing pneumonia and related bacterial diseases also climbed 33% in the quarter to about $1.7 billion.

The drugmaker posted overall adjusted earnings of $1.14 per share in the quarter.

Analysts forecast fourth-quarter earnings of $1.05 per share on $24.38 billion in revenue, according to FactSet.

For 2022, Comirnaty brought in $37.8 billion in worldwide sales. The company said it topped $100 billion in total revenue for the first time, even as a strong dollar hurt sales recorded outside the U.S.

Pfizer had 10 products surpass $1 billion in sales.

All that helped Pfizer’s full-year profit swell 43% last year to $31.4 billion.

Shares of Pfizer Inc. climbed 14 cents to $43.69 Tuesday in midday trading while broader indexes also rose slightly.


Follow Tom Murphy on Twitter: https://twitter.com/thpmurphy

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