- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Pfizer posted slightly higher sales and a 14 percent jump in profit in the first quarter, thanks to lower restructuring costs and a much-lower tax rate, but its revenue still missed Wall Street expectations.

The maker of pain medicine Lyrica and the blockbuster Prevnar 13 vaccine against pneumococcal infections said Tuesday that net income was $3.56 billion, or 59 cents per share. That was up from $3.12 billion, or 51 cents per share, a year earlier, when there were more shares being publicly traded.

The New York company’s earnings, adjusted for non-recurring costs, came to 77 cents per share. That was 3 cents better than industry analysts had expected, according to Zacks Investment Research.

Revenue totaled $12.91 billion, up 1 percent but short of the $13.09 billion analysts had projected.

Chief Executive Ian Read, in a conference call with stock analysts, repeatedly touted the company’s pipeline of drugs in testing, saying it “has the potential to drive significant growth.”

He said Pfizer expects to win 25 to 30 approvals for new medicines or new uses for existing ones through 2022.

Read said key brands drove total quarterly sales, especially breast cancer drug Ibrance, advanced blood thinner Eliquis and rheumatoid arthritis pill Xeljanz.

Sales in the company’s Innovative Health business, which sells those medicines and other patented drugs, rose 6 percent to $7.83 billion, led by jumps of 35 percent or more for Eliquis and Ibrance. However, Jefferies analyst Ian Hilliker noted that sales were below expectations for Lyrica, Xeljanz, immune disorder treatment Enbrel and a few other drugs.

The Essential Health Division, which sells Viagra, cholesterol pill Lipitor and other older, off-patent drugs, saw sales slide 5 percent to $5.08 billion.

The consumer health division posted a 7 percent sales increase, to $905 million, while Pfizer has been trying to sell it. The drugmaker has not received an acceptable offer, and will decide by year’s end what to do with that business, which sells Centrum and Caltrate supplements and Advil pain reliever, Read said.

Pfizer noted that during the quarter it used part of its benefit from the December federal tax cut to pay shareholders $2 billion in dividends and to repurchase $6.1 billion worth of its shares. The tax cut reduced its tax rate from 20.5 percent to 17 percent in the first quarter.

The drug giant reaffirmed its 2018 financial forecast, saying it expects full-year adjusted earnings between $2.90 and $3 per share, with revenue in the range of $53.5 billion to $55.5 billion.

In afternoon trading, Pfizer shares fell $1.46, or 4 percent, to $35.15.


Follow Linda A. Johnson at https://twitter.com/LindaJ_onPharma

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