Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) announced its third-quarter earnings results before the market opened on Tuesday. All you have to do is look at the stock's performance in the early hours of trading -- Pfizer's shares jumped more than 3% out of the gate -- to know that investors liked what they heard. 

This latest quarterly update was quite different from past earnings announcements. Why? Because Pfizer essentially told a tale of three companies. 

Open book with images of charts appearing above it

Image source: Getty Images.

1. The Pfizer of today

The main tale Pfizer told with its Q3 results is one about the company today -- a story with both pleasant and unpleasant plot twists.

Pfizer's revenue fell 5% year over year to $12.7 billion. Although net income based on generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) soared 87% to $7.7 billion, its adjusted net income dropped 8% to $4.2 billion. Adjusted earnings per share slipped 2% year over year to $0.75 even with stock buybacks providing a boost.

There's much more to this story, though. Pfizer's revenue decline stemmed primarily from the combination of its consumer healthcare unit with GlaxoSmithKline's healthcare business. This deal closed on July 31, so only one month of consumer healthcare revenue was included in Pfizer's Q3 total. Currency fluctuations also caused revenue to be 2% lower than it would have otherwise been.

Adjusting for these two factors, Pfizer's revenue was basically flat year over year. And that was good news because it easily topped the consensus Wall Street Q3 revenue estimate of $12.26 billion.

The GSK joint venture also resulted in Pfizer's big GAAP earnings increase. While the company's adjusted EPS fell a little from the prior-year period, it still trounced the average analysts' adjusted estimate of $0.62.

2. "Pfizer RemainCo"

While investors certainly liked that the current Pfizer managed to beat expectations in the third quarter, the more exciting tale was about what the company referred to as "Pfizer RemainCo." This name references the business that will remain -- Pfizer's current biopharma segment -- after the conclusion of the planned merger of the Upjohn unit with Mylan.

Pfizer RemainCo grew revenue by 7% year over year in Q3 to $10.1 billion. This increase was driven primarily by tremendous sales growth for breast cancer drug Ibrance, anticoagulant Eliquis, and immunology drug Xeljanz, with sales soaring 27%, 20%, and 40%, respectively, for the three blockbuster drugs.

Up-and-coming drugs also delivered in Q3. Pfizer reported sales for rare-disease drug Vyndaquel of $156 million. Sales for kidney cancer drug Inlyta nearly doubled from the prior-year period to $139 million.

The biggest negative for Pfizer RemainCo in the third quarter were declining sales for Enbrel, which fell 19% operationally to $415 million in the face of biosimilar competition in Europe. 

3. The Upjohn soon-to-be spinoff

The third company in Pfizer's Q3 tale is, of course, the soon-to-be spun-off Upjohn. No, Pfizer didn't have a cute name like "LeaveCo" for Upjohn.

Upjohn's story was the worst news in the third quarter. Sales plunged 28% year over year to $2.2 billion. Blame it on Lyrica, which lost U.S. exclusivity in July 2019. Sales for the blockbuster drug plummeted by 57% to $527 million. Most of the other older drugs in Upjohn's portfolio also experienced sales declines, although much less dramatic.

One bright spot for Upjohn was China. The segment's revenue in the country increased 2% year over year on an operational basis, with higher sales for Lipitor and Norvasc fueling this growth. Pfizer expects that Upjohn's revenue in China will increase in the mid to high single digits on an operational basis for full-year 2019.

Looking ahead

Perhaps the best news of all from Pfizer related to what's on the way. The company raised its full-year 2019 top- and bottom-line guidance. It now expects full-year revenue between $51.2 billion and $52.2 billion, compared with its previous outlook between $50.5 billion and $52.5 billion. It also looks for full-year adjusted EPS between $2.94 and $3.00, up from the prior guidance between $2.76 and $2.86.

The biggest thing to look forward to is the merger of Upjohn with Mylan next year. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said that following the anticipated close of this deal in 2020: "Pfizer RemainCo will be a smaller, science-based company with a singular focus on innovation. We expect Pfizer RemainCo will be positioned to deliver revenue and adjusted diluted EPS growth that is among the industry leaders while continuing to allocate significant capital directly to shareholders, primarily through dividends."

A leaner, faster-growing Pfizer is on the way. But the terrific dividends aren't going away. That's the kind of tale that could make it one of the more attractive long-term picks among big pharmaceutical stocks