By Kimberly Chin
Pfizer Inc. swung to a loss in the fourth quarter as the pharmaceutical company faced pricing challenges in the U.S. and tougher generic competition.
Pfizer reported a loss of $394 million, or 7 cents a share, compared with a profit of $12.27 billion, or $2.02 a share, a year earlier. Analysts polled by Refinitiv were expecting the company to earn 49 cents a share.
The results included a $3.1 billion impairment charge primarily related to its 2015 acquisition of Hospira Inc.
On an adjusted basis, it posted earnings of 64 cents a share, one cent above analysts' expectations.
In its essential health unit, which contains its global pharmaceutical business, sales fell by 7%, led primarily by industry-wide pricing challenges and increasing competition with generics, the company said. Pfizer said it had experienced lower sales of the pain drug Lyrica in Europe and the antidepressant Pristiq.
The company has suffered several setbacks over the years as lower-cost generic rivals are eating into its market share and some of the patents on its blockbuster drugs expired, such as the cholesterol-controlling Lipitor pills and Lyrica.
Generic-drug competition has also put pressure on sales at large rivals such as AbbVie Inc. as well. Global sales of AbbVie's Humira, which treats arthritis and other conditions, fell 17.5% due to lower-cost copies entering the European market.
This marks a test for Pfizer's new CEO, Albert Bourla, who took the helm this month following former Chief Executive Ian Read's announcement in October that he would leave the job after eight years. Mr. Bourla was previously Pfizer's chief operating officer.
Overall sales increased 2% from a year ago to $13.98 billion, above the $13.89 billion analysts had estimated.
Sales from its innovative health unit, which makes up more than half the business and includes its consumer-health brands such as Advil, Chapstick and Centrum vitamins, rose 8% in the quarter.
The company said in 2019 it expects revenue between $52 billion and $54 billion and adjusted earnings of $2.82 to $2.92. The midpoint of those ranges imply essentially flat operational performance from 2018, excluding negative currency exchange and net gains on investments.
Shares of Pfizer, which have risen 1.3% in the past 12 months, fell 2% in premarket trading Tuesday.
Write to Kimberly Chin at firstname.lastname@example.org