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Profits drop at BioNTech as Covid vaccine demand wanes

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Covid vaccine maker BioNTech has reported sharp falls in revenue and profits compared with last year amid waning global demand for coronavirus jabs.

The German biotech company on Monday reported revenues of €3.5bn for the three months to September 30, down from around €6.1bn for the same period last year. Net profit fell from €3.2bn in the third quarter of 2021 to about €1.8bn.

The group also updated its forecast for vaccine revenues for 2022, from previous guidance of between €13bn and €17bn to a narrower range of €16bn-€17bn. Last year it made €19bn in vaccine revenues.

It said increased shipments of its Omicron adapted bivalent vaccine boosters and the positive impact of foreign currency movements had allowed it to narrow the range for this year.

Ugur Sahin, chief executive and co-founder of BioNTech, said the company had allowed people to access a vaccine adapted to the BA.4/BA.5 variants at “unprecedented speed”.

He added that the company was working to apply lessons learned from the development of Omicron-adapted vaccines to other disease areas and product candidates.

BioNTech said shipment of its Omicron bivalent boosters began early in September and that about 300mn doses of the original Omicron vaccine and the adapted bivalent vaccine, which has now been approved in over 45 countries or regions, had been invoiced as of October.

Chief strategy officer Ryan Richardson said the company had added 2.1bn doses to its 2022 order book, but that some deliveries would be delayed to early 2023 as a result of supply shortages.

BioNTech said it was expanding its research in infectious diseases and oncology, with up to 10 clinical trial updates expected in 2023.

The company was also hit by additional expenses associated with inventory write-offs, production costs linked to contracts with manufacturers and an increase in headcount. Diluted earnings per share fell to €6.98 in the third quarter, down from €12.35 in the third quarter of 2021.

The largest Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers are looking to expand into other areas as demand from the pandemic starts to slow. BioNTech said the market for Covid-19 vaccines would depend on how often additional variants appear and how severe they are.

“Looking at the evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic. . . We anticipate a long term need for annual or seasonal variant adapted boosters,” said Sahin.

The company said seasonal demand would be “weighted to the second half of the year.”

Airfinity, a health data group, has forecast that sales of Covid-19 vaccines will fall by about a fifth to $47bn next year, while Frankfurt-based finance group Oddo Bhf, previously cut its 2022 and 2023 revenue forecast for BioNTech by 28 and 33 per cent respectively, to €14.1bn and €10.6bn.

BioNTech said on Monday that the company had taken part in “very positive” discussions over approving its Covid-19 vaccine for expatriates in China.

In 2020, the company made a deal with Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical to conduct clinical trials and commercialize the German company’s vaccine in China but the vaccine has not been approved.