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Nov 2, 2021

Pfizer raises 2021 forecast, but sees shot sales falling next year

Ross Healy discusses Pfizer

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Pfizer Inc. raised its full-year forecast on the strength of COVID-19 vaccine sales and provided its first glimpse at potential gains for 2022, projecting US$29 billion in sales from the shot it developed with BioNTech SE. 

Pfizer executives cautioned that the estimate, based on existing contracts for 1.7 billion doses, is conservative, as the partners have capacity to make as many as 4 billion shots next year. Many countries have yet to make purchases, and new customers could include private buyers, executives said. 

“Of course we are negotiating way more,” Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said in an interview with Bloomberg Television, urging low- and middle-income countries to seek supply while it’s available. “I don’t want the doses to go to high-income countries,” he said. “I want them to go everywhere.”

Pfizer is among vaccine companies that have faced criticism about inequitable vaccine distribution, leaving low- and middle-income countries without access to shots. Bourla has said that many countries were reluctant to secure agreements despite a not-for-profit price tag, and that he personally approached governments by letter and phone in attempts to add them to the supply queue. 

“Quantity will not be a problem,” said Bourla, looking ahead to 2022. “If people place orders now, we will honor them.” 
 

PRIVATE BUYERS

Next year’s forecast will change as more deals are made, Chief Financial Officer Frank D’Amelio said on the call, citing durability of demand beyond next year. Meanwhile, the drugmaker is preparing to add private buyers to the government purchasers that have taken priority so far.

Pfizer is likely to begin selling shots to private entities in the U.S. before other places, as the U.S. government didn’t secure multi-year contracts, according to Angela Hwang, president of Pfizer’s biopharmaceutical unit. 

“That’ll be a new dynamic that we are absolutely ready to manage,” she said, noting that the vaccine partners were turning to smaller package sizes and other distribution strategies that will allow for “durable business.” 

Pfizer shares rose as much as 5.5 per cent as of 2:32 p.m. in New York, their biggest intraday gain since August. American depositary receipts of Germany-based BioNTech jumped 2.0 per cent.
 

2021 BEST-SELLER

Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine has become its main driver of revenue and profit as it continues to lead rivals in clearances for different populations. The best-selling pharmaceutical product of of all time in a given year, the vaccine is now expected to bring in US$36 billion in sales in 2021, up US$2.5 billion from an earlier forecast. 

Spurred by new supply agreements, including for booster doses and children’s shots, Pfizer raised its 2021 adjusted profit forecast to US$4.13 to US$4.18 a share, up from the earlier view that topped out at US$4.05. Revenue will be US$81 billion to US$82 billion, compared with an earlier forecast for as much as US$80 billion. 

The vaccine market is still likely to grow before the end of the year, with Pfizer and BioNTech producing up to 3 billion doses. Meanwhile, U.S. public health experts will consider recommending the shot as the first for use in young children later Tuesday following a recent Food and Drug Administration authorization for the demographic.

Quarterly profit was US$1.34 a share, trouncing analysts’ expectation of US$1.08. Pfizer booked US$13 billion in third-quarter sales from the vaccine, beating analysts’ expectation of US$11.5 billion. Pfizer has made 2.6 billion doses this year. 

Excluding the vaccine, drug revenues grew 11 per cent in the quarter from a year ago. The company slightly decreased the upper end of its forecast for non-vaccine products to US$46 billion after a recall of tobacco-cessation drug Chantix.
 

EXPANDING MARKET

Investors are closely watching the uptake of COVID-19 booster doses and shots for kids this year. The U.S. has already purchased 115 million pediatric doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, more than enough to vaccinate every child in the country.

The rollout of shots to those age 5 to 11 is expected to start imminently, and U.S. regulators may soon evaluate data from even younger children. Pfizer expects to report early results from a trial of its vaccine in those 2 to 4 years old this quarter, and anticipates getting data from those 6 months to less than 2 years old next quarter.

The FDA recently informed competitor Moderna Inc. that it will need additional time to assess the company’s emergency request to approve its COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 17 as regulators examine the risk of myocarditis, a rare form of heart inflammation. Pfizer Chief Scientific Officer Mikael Dolsten acknowledged that his company may have an advantage in the market for shots for adolescents and children.

Moderna’s vaccine “may not be available in the near-term for younger people,” he said.

Late-stage studies of Pfizer’s experimental pill to treat COVID are expected to produce preliminary results this quarter and “extend through mid-2022,” Dolsten said. That puts it well behind competitor Merck & Co.’s experimental COVID pill, molnupiravir, which could be cleared by regulators in early December.