Pfizer blows past sales forecasts, thanks to overachievers Prevnar, Ibrance

Pfizer CEO Ian Read

Last quarter, vaccine giant Prevnar 13 and breast-cancer newcomer Ibrance outperformed expectations, helping Pfizer ($PFE) trump analyst estimates. And in Q3, they delivered repeat performances.

The pharma giant hauled in revenue of $11.2 billion, topping estimates of $10.6 billion and pushing EPS to a 60 cents mark, above predictions of 51 cents. The company again raised its full-year revenue guidance; it now expects its top line to tally between $47.5 billion and $48.5 billion, up from the $46.5 billion to $47.5 billion range it outlined with its Q2 earnings announcement.

Pfizer has Prevnar 13, the world's best-selling vaccine, to thank for the quarterly beat. The shot delivered more than a billion dollars in Q3 sales--$1.05 billion, to be precise--blowing away consensus estimates of $837 million. The jab last year won a CDC committee recommendation for universal use in adults over the age of 65, and "we have done an excellent job finding and protecting 25% to 30% of the eligible population" for that indication, CEO Ian Read told investors on a conference call.

Pfizer's Albert Bourla

Ibrance--a breast cancer drug approved in 2015--also came up big, posting a $230 million Q3 sales haul that buried the $195 million analysts expected. To date, 15,000 patients have now taken the med, compared with 9,000 at the end of Q2, and the number of healthcare practitioners who have prescribed it swelled from 3,000 to 4,000, Albert Bourla, Pfizer's president of vaccines, oncology and consumer health, told investors.

As usual, analysts had plenty of questions about the deal-hungry drugmaker's M&A plans, and Read didn't reveal much. He did say he'd prefer to do any tax-inversion transaction under the present U.S. Congress, noting that "you'd rather do it in a Congress where you do know who are setting the rules and what the rules are."

He also pointed out that while some specialty pharma companies have seen a decline in their share prices, he's not sure their management and shareholders are ready to sell. "I'm not so sure there's been an adjustment in their expectations" that matches the adjustment in their prices, he said.

Either way, any acquisition Pfizer makes won't necessarily prevent the companywide breakup that may be slated for later this decade, Read reassured listeners. In fact, it "may even strengthen" the case for splitting up the operating units, depending on the type of deal and its timeline.

"This management team is not afraid of taking bold steps," he said. "We're looking at opportunities, and when we make our decision as to what is the best way of enhancing value, we will move."

- read Pfizer's release (PDF)

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