Pfizer Struggles to Come Back from COVID Decline

Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) had a “phenomenal” first quarter — and Wall Street took notice, CEO Albert Bourla told thousands of employees during a companywide town hall on May 2, according to media reports.
A day earlier, the pharmaceutical giant’s stock had closed 6% higher after its quarterly results topped analyst estimates and it hiked its full-year outlook. Those shares opened Friday up 14 cents to $27.94.

It’s better than the same quarter last year, when Pfizer’s shares plunged more than 40%, making it one of the worst-performing large pharmaceutical stocks of 2023. Its market cap of about $157 billion is now less than half of its 2021 peak of nearly $350 billion.

Few companies benefited from the pandemic as much as Pfizer did. The drugmaker’s profits boomed, fueled by its COVID vaccine and antiviral pill Paxlovid. After Pfizer and German company BioNTech rapidly developed and deployed a lifesaving shot that helped the world emerge from the pandemic, Pfizer drew widespread praise.

Pfizer’s success contributed to its equally jarring fall from grace. When the virus receded in 2023, its COVID products revenue plummeted. The world, which hailed Pfizer as a pandemic hero a few years earlier, no longer needed the company in the same way.

Pfizer may be on its way toward stabilizing its business and winning back Wall Street’s favor after that strong first quarter. But the company is struggling to balance that with the fears of its employees, some of whom said they feel uncertain about their future and unmotivated after the sudden reversal of fortune.

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