Such is the wackiness of Wall Street's quarter-by-quarter obsessions that a quarter in which revenue dropped 9% and adjusted earnings per share fell 12% is considered "good" because analysts were expecting a whole lot worse.
I'm talking here today of that giant, albeit troubled, pharmaceutical company, Pfizer
As I said, sales were down 9% in this the company's fourth quarter. Most importantly, human health sales (that is, prescription drugs) were down 11% overall and down 18% in the U.S. The culprits read like a murder inmate's row of generic competition and troubled drugs -- Celebrex down 53%, Bextra down to nothing, Neurontin down 71%, and Zithromax down 43%. Just those four drugs account for $1.6 billion in lost revenue relative to last year's fourth quarter.
And it wasn't as though there was a lot of blowout growth among the remaining drugs. Lipitor was up 3% (to $3.4 billion), Norvasc was down 1%, Zoloft was down 16%, and Viagra was down 8%. So although newer drugs like Lyrica and Caduet are doing pretty well, it's not enough to offset the aging base of blockbusters.
Luckily for shareholders today, that's not all the news. Pfizer continues to make progress with its cost-cutting, and SG&A expenses rose only 2% this quarter. R&D spending was down 13%, although I'm not sure how much to cheer this news, since R&D is the lifeblood of pharmaceutical companies (unless they go the Forest Labs
I've been cautiously positive on Pfizer for some time now, and that's not about to change. The company may not be able to recapture past glories, but I still believe the stock is a good idea for long-term (i.e., patient) investors. It may not have the buzz of a Genentech
For more pharm-fresh Foolishness, pop one of these:
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).