Drugmaker Pfizer's Q4 net nearly quadruples from sale of nutrition business

Drugmaker Pfizer Inc.’s fourth-quarter results easily beat Wall Street expectations, driving up its stock, as profit more than quadrupled, due to tighter spending and a $4.8 billion gain from selling its nutrition business.

Those boosts offset competition from generic drugs hurting sales of Lipitor and other medicines.

The world’s biggest drugmaker said Tuesday that its net income was $6.32 billion, or 85 cents per share, up from $1.44 billion, or 19 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding the windfall from selling its nutrition business to Nestle SA for $11.5 billion on Nov. 30, and a total of $888 million for restructuring, legal and other one-time items, the Viagra maker would have had a profit of $3.51 billion, or 47 cents per share. That’s 3 cents more than analysts surveyed by FactSet were expecting.

In afternoon trading, the New York-based company’s shares rose 87 cents, or 3.2 per cent, to $27.71.

“It was certainly a good quarter,” said Edward Jones analyst Judson Clark. “They continued to execute on their short-term business model,” of controlling costs while making progress on the development of new drugs.

Revenue fell 7 per cent to $15.1 billion, mainly due to generic competition to cholesterol blockbuster Lipitor. Analysts expected $14.35 billion.

“Overall, a good quarter driven by the revenue beat,” BernsteinResearch analyst Dr. Timothy Anderson wrote to investors, calling Pfizer’s 2013 financial forecast “a bit underwhelming.”

Pfizer said it expects 2013 earnings per share of $2.20 to $2.30, excluding one-time items, and revenue of $56.2 billion to $58.2 billion. Analysts are expecting $2.28 per share and revenue of $57.55 billion.

Lipitor, which had reigned as the world’s top-selling drug ever for nearly a decade, got U.S. generic competition in December 2011 and now has generic rivals in many major markets. The pill had been bringing Pfizer nearly $11 billion a year before then, down from its peak of $13 billion a year.

In the fourth quarter, Lipitor sales plunged 91 per cent in the U.S. and 71 per cent worldwide, to $584 million. A dozen other medicines also had lower sales due to generic competition.

Altogether, generic competition reduced prescription drug revenue by more than $2.1 billion. Unfavourable currency exchange rates lopped off another 2 per cent, or $271 million.

However, several key newer drugs had double-digit sales increases, including fibromyalgia and pain treatment Lyrica, at $1.13 billion, painkiller Celebrex at $750 million, and the Prevnar 13 vaccine against meningitis and other pneumococcal infections, at $993 million. Viagra was up 6 per cent at $553 million.

Altogether, Pfizer’s prescription drug revenue fell 9 per cent in the quarter, to $12.89 billion. The division was led by sales of primary-care medicines, which totalled $3.83 billion. Still, that was down 29 per cent as Lipitor’s sales in the two biggest markets, the U.S. and Japan, where shifted into the established products category. That segment, which markets off-patent drugs still popular in many countries, posted a 3 per cent rise in revenue, to $2.37 billion.

Specialty products, such as Enbrel for psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis, and hemophilia treatments Refacto AF and Benefix, had revenue dip 4 per cent, to a combined $3.67 billion. Sales in emerging markets such as China and India jumped 17 per cent, to $2.65 billion, while sales of cancer drugs, a newer focus for Pfizer, rose 9 per cent to $370 million.

The animal health business saw revenue increase 6 per cent, to $1.17 billion. Pfizer is set to sell up to 19.8 per cent of the business, called Zoetis, in a partial initial public offering on Friday.

The consumer health business saw revenue jump 16 per cent, to $936 million, due to strong growth of Advil pain reliever and Centrum vitamins.

“We had a good year,” CEO Ian Read said in an interview, adding that he’s “looking forward to progressing our pipeline and bringing new products to patients this year.”

Read told analysts during a conference call that Pfizer will soon launch two new medicines, rheumatoid arthritis treatment Xeljanz and — with partner Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. — potential blockbuster Eliquis, for preventing heart attacks and dangerous clots in patients with the irregular heartbeat atrial fibrillation.

Pfizer said insurers so far have generally been covering Xeljanz, which has a wholesale price of about $2,050 for a month’s supply, less than a rival drug.

Eliquis, just approved on Dec. 28 in the U.S., should be in most U.S. pharmacies by Thursday. Pfizer and partner Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. will promote it jointly, noting its advantages over two rival drugs on the market already, Xarelto and Pradaxa.

Asked about plans for acquisitions, Pfizer said its focus is on “bolt-on” deals, meaning purchases of companies with complementary businesses or products, with a price tag of up to several billion dollars.

Read said Pfizer’s mid- to late-stage drug pipeline “continues to strengthen with key potential opportunities,” including drugs for advanced breast cancer and three other types of cancer, one for high cholesterol and a meningococcal B vaccine for adolescents and young adults.

For the full year, net income was $14.57 billion, or $1.94 per share. That was down from $10.01 billion, or $1.27 per share, in 2011. Revenue totalled $58.99 billion, down 10 per cent from $65.26 billion in 2011, before generic competition slashed sales of Lipitor and schizophrenia drug Geodon.


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