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The Globe and Mail

Weak Prevnar vaccine, emerging market sales hit Pfizer

People walk past the Pfizer World headquarters in New York, in this file photo taken February 3, 2010.


Pfizer Inc reported on Thursday quarterly revenue well below Wall Street expectations, on disappointing sales of its Prevnar pediatric vaccine and a sharp pullback in emerging market revenue.

Results were also hurt by weaker-than-expected sales of Pfizer's Lipitor cholesterol fighter, which has been facing cheaper generics since late last year.

The largest U.S. drug maker earned $3.21-billion (U.S.), or 43 cents per share, in the third quarter. That compared with $3.74-billion, or 48 cents per share, in the year-earlier period, when the company recorded a $1.3-billion gain on the sale of its Capsugel business.

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Excluding special items, Pfizer earned 53 cents per share, matching the average analyst forecast, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

"Like many others in the third quarter, Pfizer was weak at the revenue line, missing (forecasts) by 5 per cent," Jefferies and Co analyst Jeffrey Holford said.

"However, better-than-expected operational efficiencies in manufacturing and a lower-than-expected tax rate rescued earnings to an in-line result."

Global sales fell 16 per cent to $13.98-billion, well below Wall Street expectations of $14.64-billion.

Revenue from emerging markets – countries whose fast-expanding economies are a mainstay for Pfizer growth – fell 2 per cent to $2.39-billion as the stronger dollar cut into the value of sales. By contrast, emerging market sales had jumped 8 per cent in the prior quarter.

Although Pfizer has hitched its future largely to sales in developing markets such as China, India, Eastern Europe and South America, sales are highly variable there because of fluctuating interest rates and a range of regional factors.

Sales of Prevnar 13 fell 14 per cent to $868-million, while sales of its older Prevnar 7 vaccine dropped 17 per cent to $81-million. The widely used vaccines, obtained through Pfizer's merger in 2009 with Wyeth, are now Pfizer's second-biggest-selling franchise.

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Prevnar, used to prevent infection with pneumococcal bacteria that can cause pneumonia, ear infections and other problems, logged especially sharp declines in the United States and developed Europe because children had been vaccinated in prior months, Pfizer said. Moreover, Pfizer cited "minimal" demand by adults for the product.

Lipitor sales plunged 71 per cent to $749-million. It had been the world's biggest drug until its U.S. patent lapsed in late November, opening the floodgates to cheaper generics.

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