An Opportunity to Buy Pfizer on the Cheap?

4 Dec

Shares of drug maker Pfizer might drop precipitately at market open Monday, on the heels of an announcement that further development for a new blockbuster drug hopeful (torcetrapib) will be halted. Pfizer has pumped millions of dollars into the development of a drug they thought was going to be huge only to have their (and investor’s) hopes dashed. But that’s the drug business, and Pfizer still has more time to replenish its pipeline looking forward to 2011, when Lipitor, its top seller, loses patent protection. Maybe this replenishment won’t all come from one drug, as was hoped with torcetrapib/atorvastatin. But not being so dependent on one drug may turn out to be to Pfizer’s advantage, owing to the increased diversification benefits.

The concern now is with pipeline replenishment and thus revenue replacement. The company has frequently added to its product lineup with acquisitions, and this recent development may pressure them to be more aggressive in this space over the next few years. Meanwhile, with the prospect of declining revenues, the company is focused on cost reduction, having announced a week ago that it’s cutting its global workforce by 20%.

The bottom line is that even without torcetrapib in the pipeline, Pfizer still has a decent drug pipeline and cash to buy more drug assets. It’s a very financially strong company with a hefty dividend and tons of free cash flow. If shares drop 10-20%, as many analysts are expecting, it’ll be a good opportunity to buy the stock. If the shares are down that much we’re talking about a stock with a 9-10% free cash flow yield, trading at 11-12 times forward earnings with a 4% dividend. At that price, a long-term buy and hold investor is likely to achieve above-average results.

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