Pfizer outlook gloomy after annus horribilis in 2023

Pharmaceutical giant suffers a post-Covid-19 hangover as demand for pandemic vaccines and medicines falls sharply

Pfizer shares tanked again last week after warning 2024 sales could be almost $5 billion (€4.54 billion) below market expectations.

Shares have more than halved over the past year, falling to mid-2016 levels – a seven-year drought. Collapsing demand for Pfizer’s Covid treatments means sales will probably generate only $8 billion in 2024 – way below analyst estimates ($13.8 billion), and a far cry from 2022 ($57 billion).

Pfizer, which employs about 5,000 people in Ireland, is cutting costs to reflect financial realities, last week announcing an additional $500 million in cuts to bring the total number to $4 billion.

It’s also trying to reorientate its drugs pipeline, following the $43 billion acquisition of cancer biotech company Seagen. Pfizer expects Seagen to bring in $3.1 billion next year.


Nevertheless, Pfizer’s lowly valuation – with a market capitalisation of $150 billion, it trades on 8.3 times estimated earnings – shows investors are worried. The balance of power has shifted to Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk, each of which is now worth almost three times as much as Pfizer.

Lilly and Novo Nordisk respectively trade on 49 and 31 times estimated earnings, due to soaring demand for their anti-obesity treatments. Pfizer wants in on that market, but December has also brought bad news on that front, with side effects forcing it to abandon plans for a twice-daily version of danuglipron, Pfizer’s obesity pill.

Pfizer isn’t giving up, saying it will release data on a once-daily version of danuglipron next year. However, with the company abandoning two experimental treatments over the past six months, breaking into the lucrative anti-obesity market is not proving to be easy.