Pfizer beats profit estimates, investors eye experimental drugs
By Ransdell Pierson
(Reuters) - Pfizer Inc (PFE.N: Quote) reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter results on Tuesday, helped by higher sales of drugs for cancer, nerve pain and arthritis, and forecast 2014 earnings in line with Wall Street estimates.
The biggest U.S. drugmaker said it earned $2.57 billion, or 40 cents per share, in the fourth quarter. That compared with $6.32 billion, or 86 cents per share, in the year-earlier quarter when the company recorded a $4.8 billion gain from selling its nutritional products business to Swiss food group Nestle SA NESN.VX.
Excluding special items, Pfizer earned 56 cents per share. Analysts, on average, expected 52 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
(For graphic, see link.reuters.com/ken46v)
JP Morgan analyst Chris Schott said quarterly results were solid and driven by unexpectedly strong sales and lower-than-expected expenses.
Schott said investors remain focused mainly on the company's pipeline of experimental drugs, including a treatment for advanced breast cancer called palbociclib and studies to determine whether Pfizer's blockbuster Prevnar vaccine against pneumococcal bacteria can prevent pneumonia in adults age 65 and older.
"We believe Pfizer shares could see meaningful upside in the event of positive data for palbociclib," Schott said.
Some analysts expect the drug, which has been granted a "breakthrough" drug designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to garner annual sales of more than $5 billion if ongoing trials succeed and it is approved. Continued...