Week's news analysis

Covid-19 pandemic weakens financial results

By The Editor - 5 August 2020

As expected, impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was felt by the pharmaceutical industry during the second quarter and the first half of 2020. It restricted doctor visits by patients and company sales representatives, reducing prescriptions for medicines and vaccines.

In Europe, Roche's pharmaceutical sales fell from $13.2 billion in the first quarter to $11.8 billion in the second (-10.8 %). Year-on-year, its second-quarter sales fell 6 %. First-half revenues were down 4 % ($31.6 billion) and first-half profit down 5 % ($9.2 billion). Roche still expects 2020 revenues to grow in the low- to mid-single digits at constant exchange rates.

With overall revenue down 4 % ($11.3 billion) and profit declining 11 % ($1.9 billion, the second quarter of 2020 impacted Novartis'businesses and launches. The lockdown has disrupted ophthalmology practices with sales of Lucentis declining 25 % ($401 million). The swiss company slightly revised estimates, now expecting core operating income to grow in the mid-single digits versus an increase in the mid- to high-single digits.

During the first half of 2020, and the Covid-19 lockdown, Sanofi cut its expenses in the range of $1.16 billion through reducing travel and events, printing fewer promotional materials, cutting suppliers, tightening up on training costs and more. From January to June, sales were up 0.9 % ($20.27 billion) and net income up 8.7 % ($4.1 billion). But from April to June, net sales were $9.42 billion, down 4.9 %, while business net income increased + 3.6 % to $1.88 billion, confirming the impact of Covid-19 pandemic.

In the United States too, most drug companies had to face decline in sales and profits during the second quarter. The biggest US drugmaker Pfizer reported a 32 % plunge in second-quarter profit ($3.43 billion) while revenue fell 11 % to $11.8 billion, but still reaffirmed its 2020 financial forecast.

Merck & Co estimated that the overall negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to its revenue was approximately $1.6 billion. Within the company's human health business, revenue was negatively impacted by reduced access to health care providers given social distancing measures and within Animal Health, by reduced veterinary visits and decreased protein and milk demand. For the full-year 2020, Merck now expects an unfavorable impact to revenue of approximately $1.95 billion due to the COVID-19 pandemic, comprised of approximately $1.8 billion for pharmaceuticals and $150 million for Animal Health.

Gilead reported a loss of $3.33 billion compared with a gain of $1.88 billion in the year-ago quarter. Revenue fell to $5.14 billion in the quarter, down from $5.68 billion in the like quarter a year ago. The drug manufacturer of remdesivir expects to produce more than 2 million courses of remdesivir by the end of the year. Some analysts have predicted at least $1.5 billion in sales of the drug this year alone. Biogen now expects full-year revenue in the range of $13.8 billion to $14.2 billion, down from a prior estimate of $14 billion to $14.3 billion.

Eli Lilly announced sales of $5.5 billion for the quarter, below the FactSet consensus estimate of $5.8 billion. Sales for the same quarter last year were $5.6 billion. They were strained by the pandemic with fewer new patients starting using innovative treatments.

Johnson & Johnson's results also reflected the impact of Covid-19 with overall revenue down 10.8 % ($18.3 billion) and profit down 35.3 % ($3.6 billion). Nevertheless the company predicted full-year sales to be between $79.9 and $81.4 billion, higher than an earlier forecast.

Others companies surprised the market with better results than predicted. Amgen's total revenues increased 6 % to $6.2 billion in comparison to the second quarter of 2019. GAAP net income went down -17 % (1.8 billion). Same picture at Merck & Co, with net income up 12 % ($3 billion) but sales donw 8 % ($10.8 billion).

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