Pfizer Doing Its "Best" To Help Dow And Pharma Sector

As I write this at the start of the second hour of regular trading, Pfizer is hangin' on to a small gain. It's the only big pharma stock trading higher this morning and for a moment after the opening bell it was the only Dow component in the green. (Merck and Schering-Plough , still reeling from the Vytorin/Zetia study, are getting pummeled again in the early going--each down more than a buck.)

The world's biggest drug company beat the Streetand boosted its financial guidance for this year and in this market all the stock can do is trade fractionally higher after hitting a new low yesterday. In a fourth-quarter big pharma earnings preview note to clients, Deutsche Bank's Barbara Ryan points out that at this beaten-down level, the PFE dividend yield is nearing six percent.

As I've blogged before,Pfizer's stop-smoking pill Chantix is doing very well. The company sold $280 million dollars worth of the drug in the fourth quarter, easily topping estimates. And even though that's just one example of product sales growth at PFE, there are a couple of other items that I find the most striking in the earnings press release.

One is cost cuts. Pfizer got rid of 11,000 employees last year. 11,000! According to a company spokesman, that represents nearly 10 percent of Pfizer's workforce. And it's not alone. Most, if not all, of the major drugmakers are laying off people. But what does a number like 11,000 tell you about how fat they might have been?

The other is the weak dollar. Pfizer says the exchange rate added more than $600 million or about 5 percent to the topline in the fourth quarter. The same spokesman says Pfizer now gets 52% of its business from outside the U.S. The conference call/web cast is set for noon Eastern time today. You can listen to it at

It'll be interesting to hear if Chairman and CEO Jeff Kindler says anything that will move the stock. Through the same spokesman, he declined a post-earnings interview with me. The last time Mr. Kindler talked to CNBC was more than a year ago after the company announced its experimental cholesterol drug had failed and the stock plummeted. It hasn't recovered since.

Questions? Comments?