Unfortunately, I’m getting reports of significant chemistry layoffs coming this fall at Pfizer’s Groton facility. Rumors of all sorts seem to be going around: one indication is that this is going to hit both PhD and associate chemists, as opposed to some earlier reorganizations there which mostly seemed to let lab heads go. The timing is also uncertain, but September/October seems to be the average of what I’m hearing. I assume that biology and other areas will feel the tremors, too, but I have no information about them. There's nothing on the news wires about any of this, so it's not at the official announcement stage, but people seem to be getting braced.
I’m not happy to hear about this kind of thing, but I can’t say that it’s a surprise, either. Pfizer is going to be having a rough time of it for years to come, what with the Lipitor patent expiration coming closer. And as fate would have it, the company will get to feel that one about as hard as possible, because the various things that were going to cushion the blow haven’t worked out so well.
Think about it – Celebrex was the whole driving force for the Pharmacia/Upjohn acquisition, and just look at it now. Compared to what it was supposed to be by 2008, it’s in terrible shape. Then you have the gigantic failure of torcetrapib, the CETP inhibitor that was going to extend the Lipitor franchise and make it even bigger. That was in late 2006, and the echos have not died away even now. And then there’s the ruinous failure of Exubera, the inhaled insulin that was going to be a runaway best seller all its own. (Oh, it really was, although it’s hard to remember that - a reader sent me a 2006 analyst report (Hambrecht) which is just giddy with expectations – Pfizer’s 1.2 billion sales projection is clearly way too low, you see, and the brokerage’s own 2.5 billion might be conservative. Heck, 5 billion in sales is “very achievable” by 2010, so you’d better load up now, because the ship is sailing, the train’s leaving the station, and so on. . .ah, Wall Street.)
So, Pfizer’s buffers are exhausted, but the big beaker of fuming nitric acid is still going to unload on schedule. It’s going to be a tough place to work, and it’s going to be a tough stock to own. If you have a chance to do anything about either of those situations, I’d look into it.