COVID-19 vaccine sales boosted Pfizer earnings well past fourth-quarter expectations, but the drugmaker has set a lower-than-expected bar for 2022.
Pfizer debuted on Tuesday annual forecasts for both earnings and revenue that fell short of analyst expectations even as the drugmaker expects another robust year of sales from its vaccine, Comirnaty, and its new coronavirus treatment, Paxlovid.
Its stock slid while broader indexes climbed Tuesday.
Pfizer expects Comirnaty to bring in another $32 billion in sales in 2022, while Wall Street is looking for more than $34 billion. Both the company and the Street expect another $22 billion in sales from Paxlovid, which received authorization from U.S. regulators shortly before Christmas.
European Union regulators then recommended its authorization late last month.
Overall, Pfizer forecasts adjusted earnings in the new year to range from $6.35 to $6.55 per share on $98 billion to $102 billion in revenue.
Industry analysts forecast earnings of $6.71 per share on $103.18 billion in revenue, according to FactSet.
Sales estimates for both Comirnaty and Paxlovid will likely rise as Pfizer finalizes more contracts to provide the vaccine and treatment, Mizuho Securities USA analyst Dr. Vamil Divan said in a research note. He added that the drugmaker “remains in a strong position,” with a key question being how long both the coronavirus vaccine and treatment can keep up their sales.
Analysts expect revenue from both to wane in the coming years, depending on how the pandemic plays out.
Pfizer's two-shot coronavirus vaccine brought in $36.78 billion in revenue in 2021, its first full year on the market.
The $12.5 billion in sales it recorded in the fourth quarter helped Pfizer's top line double compared to the last quarter of 2020.
The COVID-19 vaccine became Pfizer’s top selling product by last year’s second quarter, before children started receiving the preventive shots and adults began receiving booster doses.
The New York drugmaker books the vast majority of revenue from Comirnaty and splits profit, as well as the cost to make and distribute the vaccine, with development partner BioNTech.
Vaccines have quickly become Pfizer's biggest selling business. They pulled in $42.6 billion in sales last year, or more than three times the revenue brought in through the next largest segment, oncology.
That success has brought criticism. The advocacy group Global Justice Now criticized the drugmaker on Tuesday for “ripping off public health systems” and reporting revenue higher than the gross domestic product of several countries.
A Pfizer spokeswoman said the company is committed to “equitable and affordable access” of its vaccine. The company said a billion doses of its vaccine are being provided to the world's poorest countries through a deal with the U.S. government, which buys the shots at a not-for-profit rate from Pfizer and then distributes them for free.
Outside Comirnaty and Paxlovid, Pfizer also produces other vaccines and internal medicine drugs like Eliquis, for preventing blood clots and strokes.
Overall, Pfizer earned $3.39 billion in the fourth quarter and nearly $22 billion last year. Adjusted earnings totaled $1.08 per share in the quarter on $23.84 billion in revenue.
Analysts expected earnings of 87 cents per share on $24.16 billion in sales for the fourth quarter.
Shares of Pfizer Inc. fell 3% to $51.63 in midday trading Tuesday while the S&P 500 index rose slightly.
Pfizer's stock price has climbed more than 50% in the past year.
Follow Tom Murphy on Twitter at @thpmurphy