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3 Reasons Why You Might Not Want to Buy Pfizer Stock

By Keith Speights and Brian Orelli, PhD – Aug 12, 2021 at 6:15AM

Key Points

  • Fully understanding the bear case for a stock helps in making smart investment decisions.
  • Pfizer's key risks include patents expiring for several drugs after 2025, uncertainty about recurring COVID-19 vacine revenue, and the spin-off of its consumer health unit.

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Pfizer is on a roll right now. But the stock still faces risks.

Pfizer (PFE 1.07%) delivered sizzling growth in the second quarter. Its COVID-19 vaccine continues to rake in billions of dollars. Several of the company's other products are generating strong sales growth. Pfizer's dividend is attractive. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on Aug. 4, Motley Fool contributors Keith Speights and Brian Orelli answer a viewer's question about why investors might not want to buy Pfizer stock despite all of these tailwinds.

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Keith Speights: One viewer asked, he said, "Hypothetical question, why wouldn't you buy Pfizer? Tailwinds are large, great dividend, aging population, vaccine programs..." That was the question. Brian, what are some reasons why an investor might not want to buy Pfizer stock right now?

Brian Orelli: I love the approach to this question. Everyone should be asking that hypothetical question to fully understand the bear case before you hit the buy button. Even if you're 100% convinced that you want to buy the stock, you should understand why somebody is selling it to you at this price that you're willing to buy it at.

I think there are maybe three reasons why you wouldn't want to invest in Pfizer. One, it's facing a patent cliff post 2025 with multiple drugs going off patent in the 2025-2027 range, that's three years away. But if you look at the chart, approaching the patent cliff for Lipitor, which was giant for Pfizer, it had a multiyear decline as Pfizer approached it and just the Pfizer stock just kept looking cheaper and cheaper. While it may look cheap right now, it may actually get cheaper and cheaper if it can't find drugs to fill in those missing drugs that are going to go off patent.

There's a question of how to value their revenue from the COVID-19 vaccine. If you look at the pric-to-sales, it was around 3.6 back in June of last year before we knew whether the vaccines worked. Now the price-to-sales is at 4.7. That expansion doesn't seem unreasonable if Pfizer can continue to expand sales. But if the COVID-19 sales wane and then we get a multiple contraction plus the decrease in the revenue, that could be a double whammy and cause the share price to drop.

Then third, they're spinning out the consumer health division. It's already a joint venture with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK -2.74%). The plan is to spin it out, which I think is a good move. But there's some uncertainty over the valuation that Pfizer will get for its portion of the joint venture.

Then the bigger question is, what does Pfizer do with the cash that it'll receive from the joint venture and can management get a better return on value than it was getting in the joint venture? Those are pretty low-margin items, so I think they probably can, and I think they probably will, but it's still an unknown risk.

Speights: By the way, Brian, we do have a question from Richard O. and Richard might've posted this question on Monday, but he's asking a very similar question: "Why not add Pfizer to a dividend growth portfolio to hold for 30 years? What are the risks?"

You've discussed three of the risks and I guess they all boil down to just some uncertainty. There's some uncertainty about some of these blockbuster drugs losing exclusivity. It's how strong its vaccine sales will be over the long run and the spinoff.

Orelli: I would maybe equally weigh all of them and none of them are really that big of a deal. Probably maybe the patent cliff is the biggest of the three. But there's potential to make up the sales. But I would say it's maybe the combination of the three, not any one individually that would give people the total value of the worry.

Keith Speights owns shares of Pfizer. The Motley Fool recommends GlaxoSmithKline. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Stocks Mentioned

Pfizer Stock Quote
Pfizer
PFE
$50.24 (1.07%) $0.53
Gsk Plc Stock Quote
Gsk Plc
GSK
$36.88 (-2.74%) $-1.04

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