80% leap for Pfizer's U.S. Prevnar sales trounces Q1 estimates

Pfizer CEO Ian Read

Pfizer's ($PFE) recent vaccines moves are beginning to pay off for the New York pharma. On Tuesday, riding expectation-breaking numbers for its lead jab, the business reported a 44% increase in first-quarter revenue.

The star was pneumococcal disease blocker Prevnar 13, which topped revenue estimates in the U.S. in a big way, bringing in $846 million--an 80% increase over the year-ago period--to top the $568 million analysts anticipated. Pfizer attributed the sales boost to "continued strong uptake" after the CDC's recommendation last year for universal use in adults over 65--an expected $2 billion sales lift for the world's best-selling vaccine--and timing on government orders for the pediatric market.

The sales growth didn't stop domestically, though, as the unit notched a 21% operational revenue increase internationally, partly due to the inclusion of Prevenar 13 in additional national immunization programs in emerging markets, Pfizer said.

The portfolio of marketed vaccines Pfizer recently nabbed from Baxter ($BAX) also contributed to revenue growth in Europe, which no doubt pleased CEO Ian Read. Before striking the deal, the helmsman had long said he wanted to broaden Pfizer's vaccines division beyond the Prevnar franchise, and the $635 million pact for Baxter's marketed lineup--comprising a meningitis C shot and a jab for tick-borne encephalitis--did just that.

Pfizer Vaccines President Susan Silbermann

Pfizer followed its Baxter deal in January by purchasing Switzerland-based RedVax, and with it, a preclinical human cytomegalovirus vaccine candidate, plus a tech platform and IP related to another undisclosed vaccine platform.

And there may be more M&A action on the way. On Tuesday, Read told investors on a conference call that the company may beef up its operating units before deciding on further divestments, adding that it's "agnostic" to the size of a pickup as long as it creates shareholder value. And just last month, Pfizer Vaccines President Susan Silbermann called vaccines an "important growth engine" for Pfizer; the group will continue to look for development both internally and externally, she noted.

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