Pfizer Profit Jumps But Misses Views

Pfizer Inc. (PFE), the world's largest drug company, said Wednesday that its net income for the fourth quarter more than quadrupled, driven by strong sales of cholesterol drug Lipitor (search). Its earnings missed analysts' forecasts after excluding certain items, however.

Pfizer also said that revenue and income will likely be tempered in the near term due to patent expirations and other factors. Pfizer will provide guidance for 2005 and beyond in April.

Its shares rose 15 cents to $25.45 on the New York Stock Exchange (search), versus a 52-week low of $21.99 in December.

The company which also makes the anti-depressant Zoloft and the pain reliever Celebrex (search) said it earned $2.83 billion, or 39 cents a share, for the October-December quarter, up from $602 million, or 8 cents a share, a year earlier.

Before charges and special items, Pfizer earnings rose 16 percent to $4.39 billion or 58 cents a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had expected the company to earn 59 cents a share before one-time items. The items included $831 million, or 10 cents a share, for acquisitions and a loss of $46 million, or a penny a share, for discontinued operations.

Revenues rose 7 percent to $14.92 billion from $13.98 billion a year earlier.

Sales of Lipitor soared 23 percent to $3.26 billion while Zoloft revenues jumped 7 percent to $959 million. Celebrex revenues catapulted 24 percent to $1.01 billion and sales of pain reliever widened 57 percent to $417 million.

Celebrex and Bextra benefited from the withdrawal of Merck & Co's (MRK) competitor Vioxx (search) from the market because the drug doubled patients risk of heart attack and strokes. All three drugs belong to a class know as Cox-2 inhibitors (search). However, during the quarter there was news tying both Celebrex and Bextra to heart problems so analysts say it is doubtful the drugs' strong sales will continue. Celebrex prescriptions were down sharply immediately following the mid-December news linking it to heart problems.

During the quarter, sales of erectile dysfunction drug Viagra declined as competition from newer products hurt the brand.

Pfizer also saw revenues from several products lose sales to generic competition.

For the year, Pfizer reported net income nearly tripled to $11.36 billion, or $1.49 a share, from $3.91 billion, or 54 cents a share, a year ago. Excluding various items, the company adjusted income grew 31 percent to $16.17 billion, or $2.12 a share. For the year, revenues rose 17 percent to $52.52 billion from $44.74 billion.