Billions more in profits are at stake for some vaccine makers as the U.S. moves toward dispensing COVID-19 booster shots to shore up Americans’ protection against the virus.
How much the manufacturers stand to gain depends on how big the rollout proves to be.
Exactly who should get a booster was a contentious decision as advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spent two days this week poring over the evidence. CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky endorsed most of their choices: People 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 to 64 who have chronic health problems such as diabetes should be offered one once they’re six months past their last Pfizer dose. Those 18 and older with health problems can decide for themselves if they want a booster.
Still, the crisis is constantly evolving, and some top U.S. health officials expect boosters will be more broadly authorized in the coming weeks or months. And that, plus continued growth in initial vaccinations, could mean a huge gain in sales and profits for Pfizer and Moderna in particular.
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“The opportunity quite frankly is reflective of the billions of people around the world who would need a vaccination and a boost,” Jefferies analyst Michael Yee said.
Wall Street is taking notice. The average forecast among analysts for Moderna’s 2022 revenue has jumped 35% since President Joe Biden laid out his booster plan in mid-August.
Most of the vaccinations so far in the U.S. have come from Pfizer, which developed its shot with Germany’s BioNTech, and Moderna. They have inoculated about 99 million and 68 million people, respectively. Johnson & Johnson is third with about 14 million people.
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No one knows yet how many people will get the extra shots. But Morningstar analyst Karen Andersen expects boosters alone to bring in about $26 billion in global sales next year for Pfizer and BioNTech and around $14 billion for Moderna if they are endorsed for nearly all Americans.
Those companies also may gain business from people who got other vaccines initially. In Britain, which plans to offer boosters to everyone over 50 and other vulnerable people, an expert panel has recommended that Pfizer’s shot be the primary choice, with Moderna as the alternative.
Andersen expects Moderna, which has no other products on the market, to generate a roughly $13 billion profit next year from all COVID-19 vaccine sales if boosters are broadly authorized.
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Potential vaccine profits are harder to estimate for Pfizer, but company executives have said they expect their pre-tax adjusted profit margin from the vaccine to be in the “high 20s” as a percentage of revenue. That would translate to a profit of around $7 billion next year just from boosters, based on Andersen’s sales prediction.
J&J and Europe’s AstraZeneca have said they don’t intend to profit from their COVID-19 vaccines during the pandemic.
For Pfizer and Moderna, the boosters could be more profitable than the original doses because they won’t come with the research and development costs the companies incurred to get the vaccines on the market in the first place.
WBB Securities CEO Steve Brozak said the booster shots will represent “almost pure profit” compared with the initial doses.
Drugmakers aren’t the only businesses that could see a windfall from delivering boosters. Drugstore chains CVS Health and Walgreens could bring in more than $800 million each in revenue, according to Jeff Jonas, a portfolio manager with Gabelli Funds.
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Jonas noted that the drugstores may not face competition from mass vaccination clinics this time around, and the chains are diligent about collecting customer contact information. That makes it easy to invite people back for boosters.
Drugmakers are also developing COVID-19 shots that target certain variants of the virus, and say people might need annual shots like the ones they receive for the flu. All of that could make the vaccines a major recurring source of revenue.
The COVID-19 vaccines have already done much better than their predecessors.
Pfizer said in July it expects revenue from its COVID-19 vaccine to reach $33.5 billion this year, an estimate that could change depending on the impact of boosters or the possible expansion of shots to elementary school children.
That would be more than five times the $5.8 billion racked up last year by the world’s most lucrative vaccine _ Pfizer’s Prevnar13, which protects against pneumococcal disease.
It also would dwarf the $19.8 billion brought in last year by AbbVie’s rheumatoid arthritis treatment Humira, widely regarded as the world’s top-selling drug.
This bodes well for future vaccine development, noted Erik Gordon, a business professor at the University of Michigan.
Vaccines normally are nowhere near as profitable as treatments, Gordon said. But the success of the COVID-19 shots could draw more drugmakers and venture capitalists into the field.
“The vaccine business is more attractive, which, for those of us who are going to need vaccines, is good,” Gordon said.
© 2021 The Canadian Press
Canada competition watchdog may have to rely more on litigation – top official
Competition Bureau Canada watchdog may have to rely more on litigation after its proposed veto of a takeover was overturned, and this could make life harder for companies seeking to merge, the agency head said on Wednesday.
Matthew Boswell, commissioner of competition, noted his bureau had tried this year to block western Canadian oil and gas waste firm Secure Energy Services Inc from buying rival Tervita Corp.
Secure then turned to the independent Competition Tribunal, which denied the bureau’s injunction and underscored “the high bar that needs to be met to prevent mergers … that we allege are anti-competitive,” he said.
The tribunal, he said, had acted so quickly that the bureau had not had time to present all its evidence, raising valid questions about the state of competition laws in Canada.
“This decision has significant implications for how we conduct future merger reviews, particularly in cases where there are competition concerns,” Boswell said in a speech to the Canadian Bar Association.
“This may mean that we must pursue a litigation-focused approach that is costly and less predictable for merging parties,” he added.
Secure relied on the so-called efficiencies defense, which is unique to Canada. Boswell said this procedure allowed the tribunal to allow an anti-competitive merger to proceed if the transaction was deemed to produce efficiency gains that were greater than its anti-competitive effects.
“The efficiencies defense raises significant practical
challenges for the Bureau to estimate and measure anti-competitive harm,” he said. “(We should) ask ourselves whether our competition laws are really working in the best interest of all Canadians.”
The bureau is an independent law enforcement agency set up to ensure fair competition. It investigates price fixing, bid-rigging and mergers, among other matters.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
Canadian home price growth slows to near standstill in September
Canadian home prices barely rose in September from August as a recent slowdown in housing sales weighed, data showed on Wednesday.
The Teranet-National Bank Composite House Price Index, which tracks repeat sales of single-family homes in 11 major Canadian markets, rose 0.1% in September from August, marking the fourth consecutive month in which the monthly price increase was lower than the previous month.
“The slowdown in price growth can be linked to the slowdown in housing sales reported in recent months by the Canadian Real Estate Association,” Daren King, an economist at National Bank of Canada, said in a statement.
Eight of the 11 major markets rose, led by a 1% gain for Winnipeg, while prices were stable in Montreal and fell in Vancouver as well as in Ottawa-Gatineau. It was the first time in seven months that gains were not seen in all 11 regions.
On an annual basis, the index was up 17.3%, decelerating after it notched record annual growth in August. It was paced by a 31.7% gain in Halifax and a 28.0% gain in Hamilton.
(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
Oil rallies as U.S. crude stocks decline in tight market
Oil prices rallied on Wednesday after U.S. Crude Inventories at the nation’s largest storage site hit their lowest level in three years and nationwide fuel stocks fell sharply, a signal of rising demand.
Brent crude futures settled at $85.82 a barrel, a gain of 0.9% or 74 cents and the highest since October 2018.
November U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude, which expires on Wednesday, settled at $83.87, up 91 cents, or 1.1%. The more active WTI contract for December settled up 98 cents to $83.42 a barrel.
Crude prices have risen as supply has tightened, with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries maintaining a slow increase in supply rather than intervening to add more barrels to the market, and as U.S. demand has ramped up.
Globally, refiners have been boosting output thanks to high margins, one that can only be restrained by maintenance. U.S. refining capacity use dropped in the most recent week, but analysts noted that supply may continue to tighten if U.S. refiners also pick up processing again.
“Stronger demand and concerns about a drop in inventories when refiners were already running a low rate during maintenance season is making people concerned about what will happen when refiners have to ramp up production to meet what is very strong demand for gasoline and distillate,” said Phil Flynn, senior energy analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.
U.S. crude stocks fell by 431,000 barrels in the most recent week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said, against expectations for an increase, and gasoline stocks plunged by more than 5 million barrels as refiners cut processing due to maintenance. [EIA/S]
U.S. stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma delivery hub hit their lowest level since October 2018. Gasoline stocks are now at their lowest since November 2019, the EIA said, while distillate stocks fell to levels not seen since early 2020.
Oil prices have also been swept up in surging natural gas and coal prices worldwide in anticipation that power generators may switch to oil to provide electricity.
Saudi Arabia’s minister of energy said users switching from gas to oil could account for demand of 500,000-600,000 barrels per day, depending on winter weather and prices of other sources of energy.
(Additional reporting by Sonali Paul in Melbourne and Koustav Samanta in Singapore; Editing by Andrea Ricci, Kirsten Donovan and David Gregorio)
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