- Pfizer on Tuesday forecast that its revenue this year will grow to total between $98 billion and $102 billion, which, measured at the range’s midpoint, is the highest estimate the 173-year-old pharmaceutical company has ever given for annual sales.
- The revenue guidance is based on fast sales of Pfizer and partner BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, which brought in nearly $37 billion last year and is anticipated to earn the companies another $32 billion this year. Additionally, Pfizer for the first time provided guidance for its coronavirus antiviral Paxlovid, sales of which it expects will total at least $22 billion this year.
- Both figures are exceptionally high sums. The $36.7 billion earned by Pfizer and BioNtech’s COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 is a record figure for a pharmaceutical product and the $22 billion now earmarked from Paxlovid would top the $20.6 billion in sales AbbVie recorded for Humira, the anti-inflammatory drug that was previously the world’s top-selling medicine.
Every three months for the past year, Pfizer has raised its expectations for the impact sales of it and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine will have on its business. Last February, the drugmaker guided investors to expect at least $15 billion in 2021 revenue from the shot, a figure it upped to $26 billion in May, $33 billion in July and $36 billion in November.
The final number came in nearly $1 billion higher than that November forecast as more countries signed supply deals throughout the year and, in the U.S. and Europe, Pfizer’s market share climbed to about 70% as of Feb. 5.
Pfizer is expecting significant vaccine sales in 2022 as well, albeit slightly lower than what it recorded last year as uptake in many developed countries continues to shift toward booster shots and use in younger age groups that weren’t previously eligible. In the U.S., for example, the Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to authorize use in children between the age of six months and 4 years old, although Pfizer hasn’t yet collected all the data it needs.
All told, Pfizer and BioNTech anticipate they can produce 4 billion doses of their vaccine this year, at least 2 billion of which they plans to deliver to lower- and middle-income countries.
Paxlovid, a pill that in testing proved about 90% effective at preventing hospitalization or death from COVID-19, is expected to be in high demand too. U.S. sales in the roughly one week between its authorization on Dec. 22 and the end of the year totaled $76 million. Supplies are currently limited, with Pfizer expecting to make only 6 million treatment courses over the first quarter. That number will rise to 24 million in the second quarter, and 90 million over the second half of the year as Pfizer ramps up manufacturing.
Sales in 2022 could climb even higher than the $22 billion Pfizer has forecast, as governments may sign new supply contracts or choose to stockpile doses against future COVID-19 surges.
Despite Pfizer’s record guidance, shares in the company fell by as much as 6% on Tuesday, a curious result that may be the consequence of even higher expectations from Wall Street. According to Umer Raffat, an analyst at the investment bank Evercore ISI, investors were expecting revenue and profit guidance of, respectively, at least $100 billion and up to $10 in earnings per share.
While Pfizer’s revenue forecast is roughly in line, it guided for between $6.35 and $6.55 in earnings per share. One reason for the discrepancy, according to Raffat, is Pfizer’s gross margin on sales of its COVID-19 vaccine, which at 40% is much lower than the roughly 80% it averages across the rest of its business.
Raffat thinks the company’s gross margin could improve, and predicted earnings per share in 2022 will rise to $8.
Excluding COVID-19 vaccine and drug sales, Pfizer revenues in 2021 grew 6% to $44.4 billion.