Moderna forecasts weaker sales as COVID vaccine demand wanes

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Health Canada approves Moderna’s Spikevax for use this fall'
COVID-19: Health Canada approves Moderna’s Spikevax for use this fall
The updated Moderna Spikevax COVID-19 vaccine is the first to cross the finish line for use this fall. This version has been authorized for those who are six months and older – children between six months and four years of age should get two doses if they have previously not had a COVID-19 vaccine. If they have had one or more doses they should receive a single dose. Katherine Ward has more – Sep 12, 2023

Moderna said on Thursday its 2023 sales would only hit the low end of its previous forecast, reflecting weaker demand for COVID-19 vaccines and its shares plummeted over 16% in early trade.

The vaccine maker also pushed back the launch date of its flu shot, which it had previously said it expected to be available in 2024, into 2025.

Concerns around waning demand for COVID vaccines has led to a nearly 58 per cent drop in the company’s shares this year. The stock is now less than a fifth of the record high hit during the peak of the pandemic two years ago.

Moderna said the $6 billion 2023 revenue forecast was based on the expectation that at least 50 million COVID-19 vaccines would be administered in the United States. Moderna’s COVID-19
vaccine is its lone marketed product and the company had earlier forecast revenue of $6 billion to $8 billion.

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The company said it would return to sales growth in 2025, by which time it would have launched new vaccines against flu, and break even the following year.

“We expected the high end was too lofty and implied Q4 (fourth-quarter COVID vaccine sales) after today’s beat looks reasonable,” Jefferies analyst Michael Yee said in a note.

So far, more than 15 million people in the U.S. have received an updated COVID-19 shot, including Pfizer’s rival vaccine, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, compared to around 23 million by this time in last year’s campaign, which started 10 days earlier.

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The company posted a third-quarter net loss of $3.6 billion, driven by non-cash charges of $3.1 billion related to manufacturing capacity resizing and tax reserve. The resizing,
included scaling down production by contract manufacturer Lonza, will improve future cost of sales, Moderna said.

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Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna said it expected $4 billion in revenue next year from sales of its COVID-19 shot, called Spikevax, and its respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine, which is not yet approved but expected to launch in 2024 based on positive data from a late-stage trial.

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The per share loss of $9.53 was much bigger than expectations of a $1.93 loss, according to LSEG data.

The company reported third-quarter sales of $1.8 billion, topping analysts’ estimates of $1.32 billion, according to LSEG data.

Analysts estimate over $100 million in sales for each of Moderna’s new vaccines against RSV and flu, which also has yet to be approved, in 2024, according to LSEG data.

Moderna’s 2025 sales growth expectation is based on anticipated revenue from those shots, as well as from its forthcoming combination COVID-flu vaccine, Chief Financial Officer Jamey Mock said in an interview.

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Health Canada authorizes updated Moderna vaccine targeting XBB.1.5

“We believe 2024 is the low point, and we laid out some of the pieces to that. We’re going to launch two or three new products on top of that in 2025, and have RSV out in 2024, and it’ll continue to grow thereafter,” he said.

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Spikevax’s U.S. market share increased to 45% from 36% in 2022, according to Moderna.

Wall Street has been skeptical on the overall uptake of COVID-19 vaccines this fall and of Moderna’s ability to hit its minimum $2 billion sales forecast for the commercial market, Yee said in a note last month.

Yee said he expected the number of COVID shots administered in the U.S. would hit 35 million to 40 million rather than the minimum of 50 million doses forecast by Moderna.

(Reporting by Patrick Wingrove in New York and Leroy Leo in Bengaluru Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Bill Berkrot)

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