While fellow Fool W.D. Crotty likened the travails of flu vaccine biotech Chiron
We've covered Chiron's foibles pretty extensively here at the Fool -- from the first announcement that something might be amiss in its Fluvirin vaccine production and the recall of the entire vaccine supply to the suspension of its manufacturing license and the rise of new competition in the form of GlaxoSmithKline
The company's financials took a $27 million hit related to the Fluvirin vaccine. When British authorities shut down production at its Liverpool, England, facility at the height of the crisis, it set into motion some $14 million in idle facility costs, $8 million in remediation, and $5 million in legal fees. While Chiron has since regained British approval to renew manufacturing the vaccine, it is still awaiting FDA approval here in the U.S. But the company announced yesterday that regulators have raised some new questions that it's "not in the position to characterize" until the regulatory agency concludes its inspection. It hoped to have a response by early August. Having any vaccine available this year in appreciable quantities appears to be nothing more than wishful thinking.
On top of that, earlier this month Chiron announced that another flu vaccine is also getting bounced. In eerily similar language to that which presaged the Fluvirin debacle, Chiron announced that it was suspending production of its Begrivac vaccine for non-U.S. markets because of its not meeting "sterility specifications." It subsequently wrote off an additional $15 million in inventory charges for the quarter.
Chiron's problems have rippled beyond its own facilities, impacting other companies such as medical products supplier Henry Schein
If one wants to look for a bright spot in Chiron's financials -- after all, the biotech play is more than just a flu vaccine maker -- revenues rose 10% to $419 million, with the strongest gains coming from its blood-testing division, and royalty and licensing fees surged 39% following the settlement of a U.S. patent dispute with Roche. Some analysts contend that these areas retain the value of the stock yet to be unlocked. They supposedly also help to explain why the company trades at a trailing P/E of 225 and a forward multiple of 20. The ancillary businesses, not the vaccine, will be the moneymaker.
Even so, it's hard to overlook this second straight quarter of vaccine-related losses, or Chiron's GAAP-adjusted earnings of $49,000, or $0.01 a share. Compare that with $23 million, or $0.12 a share, last year. With the third quarter tending to be a weak one generally, it takes pride of Oedipal proportions to think Chiron will still hit its mark for the full year.
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- Regulators Quarantine Chiron
- Flu Vaccines' Unhealthy Competition