Drugmaker Pfizer Inc. beat Wall Street expectations with higher profit and revenue in the third quarter, the last before generic competition starts wiping out sales of cholesterol fighter Lipitor - and possibly Pfizer's position as the world's largest drugmaker.
Pfizer on Tuesday raised its 2011 profit forecast, despite price-cutting pressure in Europe and the U.S., generic competition cutting sales of 17 drugs and cheaper generic versions of Pfizer's cash cow Lipitor expected in the U.S. in just four weeks.
Shares jumped 2.5 percent early on and closed up 7 cents at $19.33 on a volatile trading day.
Pfizer's third-quarter profit more than tripled, lifted by higher international revenue, a $1.32 billion gain from selling its capsule-making business and much lower charges than the year before.
The company reported net income of $3.74 billion, or 48 cents a share, up from $866 million, or 11 cents per share, a year earlier. That was depressed by $3.51 billion in restructuring and other charges.
The maker of impotence pill Viagra said adjusted income was 62 cents per share. That excludes net charges totaling nearly $1.1 billion, from the Capsugel sale, past acquisitions and other issues.
Analysts expected adjusted earnings of 55 cents per share on revenue of $16.43 billion.
Revenue rose 7 percent to $17.2 billion, due to new products from buying painkiller maker King Pharmaceuticals in February and a 6 percent boost from favorable currency exchange rates.
London research firm EvaluatePharma predicted Monday that with Lipitor's losses, Pfizer will fall to No. 3 in drugmaker revenues next year, behind France's Sanofi SA and Switzerland's Novartis AG.
U.S. revenue fell 3 percent to $6.9 billion, but international revenue, boosted by exchange rates, rose 15 percent to $10.3 billion. Pfizer noted European government health programs have cut what they pay for drugs by around 5 percent since July 2010, up from roughly 2 percent before then.
Pfizer raised its 2011 profit forecast to $1.20 to $1.30 per share, or $2.24 to $2.29 excluding one-time items, both up by several cents.
Pfizer is in a race to find new products to replace sales of Lipitor, the biggest-selling drug in history, with peak annual sales of $13 billion a year and current sales of nearly $11 billion. Most of that will vanish quickly. That prospect drove Pfizer's $68 billion purchase of Wyeth in 2009, and investors have been scrutinizing efforts to compensate through cost cuts and development of new medicines.
Pfizer has increased research partnerships, focused on productivity and eliminated about 23,500 jobs from the 130,000 total Pfizer and Wyeth had before they combined.
"Management has done everything possible to mitigate Lipitor" generic competition, CEO Ian Read said in an interview. "We have six products we're going to launch in the near future. We have great financial resources, and we're prudently applying our capital."
Pfizer has been advancing numerous promising drugs and vaccines in mid-and late-stage testing for several types of cancer, infections, pain, stroke prevention and Alzheimer's disease.
"Pfizer's new focus on its innovative core will provide opportunity for the company's pipeline to have a greater impact on growth," wrote analyst Linda Bannister of Edward Jones.
Lipitor got generic competition in May in Canada and in July in Spain, where sales have since plunged 81 percent. Next summer, it hits in other European countries.
Pfizer said it continues to promote Lipitor around the world, and it's working to keep patients loyal, including plans to hold down copayments by slashing what it charges insurance plans. Read said Pfizer's "intent" is to get a nonprescription version of Lipitor on the market. Rival Merck & Co. failed three times to get U.S. approval for an over-the-counter version of the first cholesterol drug, Mevacor.
The company increased its 2011 planned share repurchases by $2 billion, to $7 billion to $9 billion. During the third quarter, it spent $2.1 billion on repurchases and gave shareholders $1.5 billion in dividends.
Prescription drug sales totaled $14.75 billion, up 6 percent, as sales in emerging markets jumped 18 percent.
Sales were led by Lipitor, down 2 percent at $2.6 billion, although U.S. sales jumped 13 percent to $1.47 billion, partly from price increases this year.
Prevnar 13, the blockbuster vaccine against ear, brain and blood infections, saw sales jump 37 percent to $1.01 billion, while older Prevnar 7, which protects against half as many strains of pneumococcal disease, fell 45 percent to $98 million. The world's best-selling vaccine just got approval in adults 50 and older in the European Union, and could get the same in the U.S. in January.