Pfizer mRNA partner BioNTech reaped €19B last year but warns of lower prices in 2022

Last March, when BioNTech—suddenly famous for developing a COVID-19 vaccine along with partner Pfizer—reported its revenue for 2020, it became clear what a shoestring budget the German biotech was on prior to its star turn.

Of the 482 million euros ($549 million) revenue BioNTech generated in 2020, 270 million euros ($308 million) came from sales of the newly approved shot.

A year later, the company's numbers are befitting of its newfound status as a major player in the industry. On Wednesday, the German firm reported 2021 sales of 19 billion euros ($21.1 billion).

“We are building a 21st century immunotherapy powerhouse,” CEO Uğur Şahin said on a Wednesday conference call. “2021 was a year of historic impact that BioNTech has made on human health and the economy around the globe.”

BioNTech's 2021 revenue included 5.53 billion euros ($6.2 billion) in the fourth quarter, down from 6.09 billion euros ($6.8 billion) in the previous three months.

Naturally, nearly all of the company's 2021 revenue came from sales of the vaccine, dubbed Comirnaty, as it made 18.8 billion euros from the shot. Thanks to the vaccine launch, BioNTech posted a mong boggling 38-fold sales increase year-over-year.

BioNTech and Pfizer delivered 2.6 billion doses of their vaccine in 2021 and have signed contracts to deliver 2.4 billion this year. The German company expects its revenue from the shot to come in at between 13 billion euros and 17 billion euros ($14.4 billion and $18.9 billion) in 2022.

While BioNTech may supply more vaccine doses in 2022, sales are likely to be lower because of discounts.

“For the 2022 financial year, we expect to increase the share of delivered vaccine doses to low- and middle-income countries where prices are in line with income levels or at not-for-profit basis,” Chief Financial Officer Jens Holstein said on the call. “This shift will impact our estimated COVID-19 vaccine revenues.”

Meanwhile, the surge in revenue has allowed BioNTech to expand its R&D efforts as it expects to spend between 1.4 billion euros and €1.5 billion in 2022, roughly a 50% increase on its R&D spend in 2021. The company said it will focus on oncology and infectious diseases this year.

“We believe that infectious diseases are a long-term growth (opportunity) for BioNTech,” Şahin said. “Our objective is to develop mRNA vaccines against infectious diseases that have a major impact on global population health.”

The company also announced a share repurchase program in which it will buy back its own shares from the market to the tune of $1.5 billion over the next two years.

BioNTech reported a net profit of €3.2 billion ($3.6 billion) in the fourth quarter and €10.3 billion ($11.5 billion) for the year.