Pfizer questioned on growth after sluggish Q1 sales

Pfizer suspended efforts to sell its consumer health business after failing to receive an acceptable offer
AFP

New York (AFP) – Pfizer reported higher profits on Tuesday but minimal revenue growth, reviving questions about whether it will seek a large acquisition to spur growth.

Pfizer, the world’s biggest pharmaceutical company by revenue, reported a 14.1 percent rise in first-quarter net profit to $3.6 billion.

But revenues lagged analyst expectations after edging up 1.0 percent to $12.9 billion.

Chief Executive Ian Read called Pfizer’s quarterly results “solid” and said the company’s pipeline of new drugs was “as deep and focused as it has ever been.”

Shares sank 4.4 percent to $34.99 in morning trading, making the drugmaker the biggest loser in the Dow.

The results showed strength in some key products, including breast cancer drug Ibrance, which had global sales of $933 million and blood thinner Eliquis.

Those gains helped offset the impact of the loss of US patent exclusivity for blockbuster erectile dysfunction drug Viagra, whose revenues fell 44.8 percent to $187 million.

But executives faced some skeptical questions from analysts concerned that the drugs under development may fall short of hopes. 

Read, in his opening remarks, said the company saw the potential for 25-30 product approvals and up to 15 with “the potential to be blockbusters.”

Asked by an analyst to highlight a couple of the best prospects, Read rejected that the suggestion Pfizer has a “laundry list” and highlighted products in oncology, vaccines and pain medication as especially promising.

Pfizer suspended efforts to sell its consumer health business after failing to receive an acceptable offer. The company has also set aside discussion to split itself up, executives said.

Read sought unsuccessfully in 2014 to acquire AstraZeneca, which rejected bids as inadequate. A 2016 effort to acquire Ireland-based Allergan was blocked by Washington on grounds that it was structured to avoid taxes.

Pfizer has traditionally relied on acquisitions as a strategy but Read said Pfizer did not need a big deal to succeed. 

“We continually look at all deals,” he added. “I don’t see that we need a transformative deal nor do I see one at appropriate values right now in the marketplace.”

Pfizer’s “best investment we have now is in our own pipeline,” Read said. 

.