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The six largest biotech companies in the world increased profits by 5% in 2020

The combined profit of Pfizer, Roche, Johnson&Johnson (J&J), Sanofi, Merck and Novartis exceeds $70.52 billion (€58 billion) in 2020. Sanofi achieved a profit of $16.06 billion (€12.31 billion) in 2020. The increase in profit is driven by the capital gain from the sale of shares in the US biotech Regeneron. Merck closed last year with a profit of $7.08 billion (€5.83 billion).



The largest biotech companies in the world increased their profits by 5% in the year dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The world’s leading laboratories closed 2020 in the black, at least in terms of profits. The combined profit of Pfizer, Roche, Johnson&Johnson (J&J), Sanofi, Merck, and Novartis rose 5% in 2020 compared with 2019 data, the latest available results showed. 

The aggregate profit of the six pharma companies reached $70.52 billion (€58.09 billion) at the end of 2020, up from $67 billion (€55.19 billion) in 2019. Sanofi was the pharmaceutical company that saw its profit increase the most, multiplying it by more than four, exceeding $14.9 billion (€12.3 billion). In the opposite direction is Pfizer, which has seen its profit fall by more than 40%, despite being the first multinational to receive approval for the COVID-19 vaccine from the regulatory agencies. 

The ranking, however, is led by Roche. The Swiss multinational closed 2020 with a profit of $16.06 billion (€13.23 billion), an increase of 6% compared with a year earlier. The good results are due, among other things, to the increase in the turnover of diagnostic products, with a rise of over 10%.  

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Sanofi exceeded $16.06 billion (€12.3 billion) of profit in 2020, multiplying by more than three times the result of 2019 

The next company is Sanofi. The multinational of Gallic origin achieved a profit of $16.06 billion (€12.31 billion) in 2020, up from almost $3.52 billion (€2.9 billion in 2019). The increase in profit is driven by the capital gain from the sale of shares in the US biotech Regeneron. 

Sanofi anticipates in the financial outlook for 2021 an increase in net earnings per share from its activities of nearly 10%, provided there are no major unforeseen unfavorable events. The pharma is helping Pfizer and BioNTech to manufacture its Covid-19 vaccine. Sanofi will carry out a manufacturing phase, in Frankfurt (Germany), starting next summer to supply more than 125 million doses of the vaccine to the European Union (EU). 

The third company is Johnson & Johnson. The US multinational closed 2020 with a profit of $14.7 billion (€12.13 billion), down 2.6% compared to 2019. By business segment, the laboratory invoiced more pharmaceuticals (8%), while revenues from the sale of medical devices contracted by 11.6%. The US group is awaiting approval of its Covid-19 vaccine by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA). It could be approved in Europe as early as next March. 

Johnson&Johnson is awaiting approval of its vaccine by the EMA, which could occur in March

Pfizer, meanwhile, reduced its profit by 40.9% in 2020. However, the company led by Albert Bourla and a pioneer in vaccination posted a profit of $594 million in the last quarter of the previous year, compared with a loss of $337 million in the same period of 2019. 

In the last three months, the laboratory has increased its sales by almost 12% more than a year earlier, with a 16% rise in the vaccines business and 23% in oncology. It is precisely the vaccines business that raises the outlook for 2021. Pfizer expects to earn around 15,000 million dollars from the commercialization of the vaccine, 25% of its business forecasts. 

Novartis and Merck close the ranking. The Swiss company posted a profit of $8.07 billion (€6.65 billion) in 2020, 13% more than in 2019. In terms of sales, Novartis managed to reach $48.7 billion (€40.09 billion), an increase of 3% compared to 2019. A growth driven by the company’s innovative medicines (Zolgensma, Entresto and Consentyx), an area that recorded sales of $39.01 billion. 

Merck closed last year with a profit of $7.08 billion (€5.83 billion), compared to $9.86 billion (€8.12 billion) in 2019, a decline of 28.2%. The company explains that the estimated overall impact of the pandemic on revenue was $2.52 billion (€2.08 billion). Most of this was attributable to the human health business, although the animal area and the loss of exclusivity for several products also contributed.


(Featured image by HakanGERMAN via Pixabay)

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Anthony Donaghue writes about science and technology. Keeping abreast of the latest tech developments in various sectors, he has a keen interest on startups, especially inside and outside of Silicon Valley. From time to time, he also covers agritech and biotech, as well as consumer electronics, IT, AI, and fintech, among others. He has also written about IPOs, cannabis, and investing.