Pfizer (PFE 3.37%) is one of the top pharmaceutical companies in the world. With more than $50 billion in annual sales and profits of more than $16 billion over the trailing twelve months, the company offers investors a great deal of stability. The problem is that its business has shown minimal growth in recent years. While its dividend may attract investors looking for recurring income, it may be a struggle to find another reason to buy shares of Pfizer today. However, recent developments could make the company much more investable in the near future.
Changes to the business could improve its growth rate
There are two big moves the company is making that will change how the stock looks and that should improve its growth rate as well.
The first is the spinoff of its Upjohn division, which encompasses the company's off-patent medicine. The division will merge with another drug manufacturer, Mylan. Upjohn contributed $8.1 billion to the company's top line over the past nine months, or one-fifth of the $39.1 billion in sales that Pfizer earned over that time, but that's down 13% from the $9.3 billion that the segment generated over the prior-year period. Spinning off the business will allow Pfizer to focus on products that are exhibiting more growth, like breast cancer drug Ibrance, which has seen its sales rise 23% year to date. Eliquis, which treats blood clots, has also seen impressive year-over-year sales growth of 24%.
Another change for Pfizer comes with its consumer healthcare business combining forces with GlaxoSmithKline in a joint venture, effective Jul. 31, 2019. It isn't a big segment of Pfizer's business, as its 2018 sales from consumer healthcare totaled just $3.6 billion, which is a relatively small chunk of the $53.6 billion in revenue it generated during the year. It didn't show much growth, either, rising just 3.8% from the prior year.
By shifting its focus onto products that are core to its business and that have been exhibiting more growth, Pfizer's stock becomes more valuable in the process. While sales for Pfizer will look smaller, its growth rate may actually improve. Revenue in the third quarter was down 4.6%, while year-to-date totals are down around 1.5%.
But will it be enough to attract growth investors?
Although Pfizer will be cutting some low-performing segments out of the stock's financial results, what's left may still not be enough to make the company an attractive buy from a growth perspective. In Q3, the company's biopharma segment, which accounts for 80% of its top line, was up just 7.3% from the prior-year quarter, while year-to-date figures show even less impressive growth – 4.1%. Aside from its oncology products, where sales were up 28% in Q3, there aren't a whole lot of reasons for growth investors to get excited.
That makes Pfizer primarily a buy for those investors who are looking for a recurring payout and a bit of stability as well. The low-volatility stock currently pays its shareholders a quarterly dividend of $0.38. The company recently hiked its dividend payments from $0.36 and the dividend yield is now up to 3.9%, well above the 1.85% that the S&P 500 averages. While it's not a Dividend Aristocrat, Pfizer has been raising its payouts consistently since 2010.
Is the stock a buy?
If you're looking for a solid dividend stock to buy and hold, Pfizer could be a good option for your portfolio. And with better prospects for growth moving forward, the stock may perform better than it has over the past five years -- rising just 18%, far below the S&P 500, which is up 62% over the same period.
But with higher-yielding dividend stocks out there and better options available for growth, there isn't an overly compelling reason to buy Pfizer today, especially with all the changes that the company is undergoing. Until Pfizer can show some strong, sustainable growth, investors may want to look elsewhere, at other healthcare stocks to invest in.