Pfizer (PFE -3.32%) swam against the current last year. Unfortunately, it was a bad time to do so. While the S&P 500 Index soared nearly 29% higher, Pfizer's shares fell 10%.
So far in 2020, Pfizer isn't swimming against the current any longer. Shareholders wish it would. The stock has fallen like most others have during the market meltdown. But is Pfizer a great stock to buy during the coronavirus market crash?
You might think that a drugmaker like Pfizer wouldn't be negatively affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic. After all, patients should continue to use the company's drugs regardless of what happens with the viral outbreak. However, the global health crisis has affected Pfizer in some ways.
The biggest negative impact that the coronavirus is having on Pfizer is that the company's planned merger of its Upjohn unit with Mylan (MYL) has been pushed back. Pfizer originally expected the deal would close in the first half of 2020. Now, though, the company looks for the transaction to finalize sometime in the second half of the year.
This delay is solely the result of what Pfizer called "the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic." The company realized that there would be delays in the regulatory approval process with staff in government regulatory agencies affected by the novel coronavirus. Mylan also rescheduled its extraordinary general meeting of shareholders needed to approve some aspects of the deal to June 30, from April 27.
On the other hand, Pfizer also has some opportunities related to the coronavirus outbreak. The company is The company is partnering with BioNTech to develop a coronavirus vaccine. The two drugmakers hope to begin clinical testing in humans in late April.
Even though Pfizer's Upjohn-Mylan deal won't wrap up as soon as initially hoped, there's no reason to think that the transaction itself will hit a major snag. And it should boost Pfizer's longer-term prospects beyond the current coronavirus crisis.
Most importantly, spinning off Upjohn will remove a big weight on Pfizer's revenue growth -- Lyrica. The drug lost patent exclusivity last year, with sales plunging 67% year over year in the fourth quarter. Sure, Pfizer has a few other drugs that it will keep that aren't performing well, notably including autoimmune disease drug Enbrel. However, moving Lyrica out of its lineup will help a lot.
Pfizer's remaining portfolio will be loaded with several blockbuster drugs that are generated solid sales growth. The top three stars are blood thinner Eliquis, breast cancer drug Ibrance, and pneumococcal vaccine Prevnar 13. But Pfizer also has other drugs that are picking up steam, such as prostate cancer drug Xtandi and rare-disease drug Vyndaquel.
There's also a lot to like in Pfizer's pipeline. The company has several programs pursuing additional approved indications for existing drugs such as Bavencio and Xtandi. Its promising new candidates include Braftovi in combination with Lilly's Erbitux in treating colorectal cancer and chronic pain drug tanezumab.
Is Pfizer a buy?
Because of the drubbing that Pfizer has taken during the coronavirus-fueled market downturn, the pharma stock trades at less than 12 times expected earnings. But I think that Pfizer's valuation is actually even more attractive with the potential for its earnings growth to accelerate once the Upjohn-Mylan deal closes.
One thing to keep in mind is that Pfizer's mouthwatering dividend yield of close to 5% will drop after it says goodbye to Upjohn. However, the new entity that will be formed with the Upjohn-Mylan combination, to be named Viatris, is expected to pay a dividend that combined with the "new" Pfizer's dividend will be roughly the same as the current level for Pfizer.
For investors looking for reasonable growth at a great price, my view is that Pfizer is a great stock to buy during the coronavirus market crash. You'll be able to sell your shares of Viatris after the Mylan transaction concludes and still own shares of a solid big drugmaker with good long-term growth prospects. And I think that Pfizer is a smart choice for income-seeking investors right now, too -- if they hold on to the Viatris shares once the Mylan deal is done.
Either way, this losing pharma stock of 2019 and so far in 2020 could be a long-term winner for patient investors.