With the market at all-time highs and a "risk-on" mentality perhaps more common than not, the pharmaceutical space might not seem like the most opportune sector in which to be on the prowl. However, there is a name in the industry that I sense deserves more than a passing glance, and that's Pfizer (PFE -0.49%).
What makes the drug giant worth a gander? A couple of things stand out.
Expectations are low, but the future is promising
A quick look at consensus analyst figures shows that investors aren't expecting anything extraordinary on the earnings front in the near future. In fact, analysts are calling for the company to earn $2.97 per share this year, down 1% from the prior year, and that trend is set to continue with expected 2020 earnings down another 8%.
I know what you're thinking -- that's hardly inspiring. But I'm still upbeat when it comes to Pfizer's future earnings potential, especially given its development pipeline and storied history of blockbuster products.
As far as its current drug pipeline is concerned, as of Oct. 29th, it had 96 products in varying stages of development. And of that number, there were 37 and 24 products in Phase II and/or Phase III trials, respectively, some of which may bear fruit in the not too distant future. For example, Abrocitinib is a Phase III product for atopic dermatitis, or what's more commonly known as eczema. The company noted in its third-quarter earnings release:
In October 2019, Pfizer announced complete results from a Phase 3, 12-week, pivotal study (JADE MONO-1) in patients aged 12 and older with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis (AD). Abrocitinib, an investigational oral Janus kinase 1 (JAK1) inhibitor, met all the co-primary and key secondary endpoints, which were related to skin clearance and itch relief compared to placebo.
For a condition that's estimated to affect as many as 10% of adults and 20% of children worldwide, this is just one example of the significant markets Pfizer can serve with the products in its pipeline. For a company that generated over $53 billion in revenue in the trailing 12-month period, that's got my attention.
So what is the company's cache of products worth?
Given the competitive landscape and the fact there are always unexpected costs and risks when advancing products through clinical trials, it's hard to quantify. However, my ears perked up when the company declared earlier in the year that there could be as many as 15 potential billion-dollar drugs it says could win approval within the next five years.
Another thing worth mentioning
As of Oct. 29, Pfizer had some 42 oncology/cancer products in its pipeline. This is important, because as one might surmise, cancer is a serious health concern. And just to put some perspective on how much cancer affects our every day lives, more than 600,000 people in the United States alone were expected to die from the disease in 2018, according to the National Cancer Institute. And more than 1.7 million cases were expected to be diagnosed. In short, Pfizer is in a good place to help in the fight against this disease for years to come.
Also investors should remember that Pfizer has a strong track record. Ever heard of Lipitor, Xanax, Dilantin, Viagra, or Zoloft? They all fall under the Pfizer product umbrella, not to mention everyday consumer products like ChapStick, Centrum, and Advil. All are part of the company's arsenal.
In nutshell, Pfizer has a history of managing blockbuster products, and I'd wager that a respectable number of those 96 products in development could ultimately end up being household names as well.
The dividend provides a bit of a cushion
To be clear, Pfizer's dividend isn't some massive, double-digit behemoth. But the stock does sport a generous yield approaching 4% as of this writing. Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that the company has impressively grown its dividend since 2010.
Now, as the old saying goes, past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results, and Pfizer's payouts will change shape following the expected Upjohn and Mylan combination. But I'd argue that the track record is still impressive given the economic backdrop, particularly in the early part of the decade and the capital intensive nature of the pharmaceutical business in general. A quick look at the company's cash flows also leaves me optimistic that it has flexibility to keep rewarding shareholders going forward.
Pfizer isn't expected to grow leaps and bounds in the near-term -- that much is clear. But it does have a strong existing portfolio of big names, plus a sizable pipeline of products that will drive the company's growth over the next decade. With a solid dividend yield that can also serve as a cushion should the broad market experience a pullback, which is not beyond the realm of possibility given its trajectory over the last 12 months, ignore Pfizer at your own risk.