The recent market downturn has made some solid stocks look downright cheap. That's the case for pharma-giant Pfizer (PFE -1.03%), a leader in the coronavirus vaccine market and maker of many other medications as well.
The stock currently sports a very reasonable forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 7.4. Compare this to a P/E of 12.5 for the entire pharmaceutical industry.And Pfizer has other things to offer as well, including excellent long-term growth prospects and an attractive dividend.
The drugmaker may be underperforming the market this year, but a deeper look at the company's business reveals that it's a solid pick for long-term investors. Let's see why.
Looking beyond the pandemic
Some of the COVID-19 vaccine-industry leaders have seriously lagged the market this year. This list includes both Moderna and Pfizer's partner BioNTech. Investors seem to be worried about the questionable long-term prospects of this space. The demand for coronavirus vaccines will almost certainly drop after this year, and these companies may not be able to keep up the revenue and earnings growth they've recorded recently.
While this argument carries some weight, Pfizer differs from Moderna and BioNTech because it has a vast lineup of non-coronavirus-related products. The rest of the company's lineup isn't performing very well, though.
In the first quarter, Pfizer's total revenue increased by 53% year over year to $27.7 million on an operational basis. But not including the contribution from its COVID-19 products, the company's revenue grew by just 1% year over year operationally. That's far less impressive.
Still, although demand for coronavirus vaccines and treatments may drop starting next year, it won't fall to zero. In all likelihood, people will continue to seek protection from COVID-19, especially those most at risk for complications. Treatments will continue to be available to those who get sick.
There's some evidence that the mortality rate of COVID-19 is much higher than that of the flu -- and both are transmitted similarly. Patients receive flu shots every year to protect themselves. So from now on, we could reasonably expect people to do the same for COVID-19. That's why Pfizer's products in this area will continue to generate some revenue and allow the company's total sales to continue on the right path.
Pfizer will face challenging year-over-year comparisons in 2023, but beyond that, the company's current lineup should still be able to deliver solid results.
Pfizer is putting its cash to work
In the past year, Pfizer has made a series of acquisitions that have allowed it to enrich its pipeline. Pfizer's deal to take over Global Blood Therapeutics is the latest on this list. This biopharmaceutical company focuses on developing innovative therapies for patients with rare conditions, especially sickle cell disease (SCD), a blood-related disorder. The acquisition will cost Pfizer $5.4 billion in cash.
Global Blood Therapeutics' lead asset is Oxbryta, an SCD treatment approved in both the U.S. and Europe. Pfizer will likely continue to make key acquisitions of this type, allowing it to land new and promising products. Expect the company to earn key regulatory wins for some of its brand-new, yet-to-be-approved pipeline candidates in the coming years.
Management projected up to 15 potential new approvals in the next 1 1/2 years.
A great time to buy
Pfizer currently offers a dividend yield of 3.3% -- well above the S&P 500's average of 1.69%. The company's modest cash payout ratio of 31% suggests plenty of room for dividend hikes. And as we've seen, Pfizer's overall business remains robust.
No doubt, the company is going through a period when some of its products aren't performing as well -- something that isn't rare for pharmaceutical companies -- but the drugmaker's COVID-19 portfolio is more than making up for that situation, and other drug candidates are in the pipeline.
In the long run, the company will replenish its lineup. Even non-coronavirus-related revenue will likely pick back up, and so will the company's stock. Now is a reasonable time to take a position ahead of these developments.