I’m going to take advantage of the selling in the market in general and in the drug sector in particular–on news of the asbestos liability at Johnson & Johnson and fears of the death of Obamacare (AKA the Affordable Care Act)–to buy Pfizer (PFE) in my Dividend Portfolio. The stock is down 1.58% again today, December 17, which brings the year to date gain down to 19.33%. The yield on these shares is 3.29%, a few ticks higher than the yield on Citigroup (C), which I just sold out of this portfolio.
In its current mindset, the market isn’t doing a good job of recognizing good news about individual stocks. So, for example, shares of Pfizer fell on Friday even though Pfizer announced that it would increase its quarterly dividend to 36 cents from 34 cents, a 6% increase, and launch a buyback of $10 billion of its shares. Even nothing else that’s a strong vote of confidence in cash flow–something that’s really important to dividend investors.
But there was something else. A panel of the European Medicines Agency, the European equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, recommended approval for Pfizer Zirabev, a cheaper biosimilar version of Roche Holding’s leading cancer drug Avastin. This is the second cancer biosimilar from Pfizer to get a positive recommendation fro the panel this year. The full European Medicines Agency generally follows the panel’s recommendation within a couple of months.
This recent action is just part of the increasing strength of Pfizer’s portfolio and pipeline. Total sales in third quarter grew by 2%, a good showing considering the pressure on older drugs from generic versions. )Pfizer’s Lyrica, 7% of sales, loses patent protection in 2019.) Cardiovascular drug Eliquis, cancer drug Ibrance, and immune-system drug Xeljanz look to drive growth over the next three years or so. Beyond that the company’s late-stage pipeline includes potential blockbusters ($1 billon of more in potential annual sales) pain drug tanezumab, Vyndaqel for the rare cardiovascular disease transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy, and two JAK inhibitors (PF-06651600 and PF-04965842) for immune-system diseases.
It’s been a threat for how many years now? My cynical thought is that the drug industry lobbyists and campaign contributions are enough to hold the line on this one for a while.
What about the potential for drug price reduction legislation, since both the Democrats and Trump agree on this? Is there some reason that Pfizer is immune to this threat?