Vaccine manufacturers’ record sales are over. The Swiss industry has switched over well after Corona – and with the unclear relationship with the EU, there have long been completely different concerns.
During the Corona pandemic, the big vaccine companies Pfizer and Moderna used companies from all over the world to produce and deliver vaccine doses. The Swiss Lonza, for example, manufactured active ingredients, the Aargau Siegfried filled the vaccine in vials. A complex process, because the vaccine doses have to reach the doctor’s office absolutely sterile.
Both companies have built new production facilities and hired staff for this subcontracting work. However, the millions invested are not lost. The bottom line is that the calculation works.
At five to seven percent, the drop in sales is not dramatic and can be compensated for in the medium term.
The margins of the Corona products were very high, says analyst Sibylle Bischofberger from Bank Vontobel. In addition, pharmaceutical suppliers do not only rely on Corona. The declines in sales are therefore easy to cope with and not dramatic, especially since they usually account for around five to seven percent. This could be compensated for in the medium term with other drugs.
Change should not be underestimated
In fact, the Siegfried company even increased its sales slightly in the last half year, as it announced today. The expiring Corona orders have been compensated.
However, that sounds easier than it is. Because the companies cannot use production facilities overnight for a completely different drug. It needs adjustments, training, and the authorities have to check the systems. That takes months.
The lessons of the pandemic
But it was precisely during the pandemic that the Swiss suppliers had proven their flexibility, the analyst Bischofberger notes: “Companies saw how quickly the world can change and that they have to react to it.” And there was also a positive image gain, as is clearly the case with Swiss suppliers.
Legend: The corona pandemic was good business for some pharmaceutical companies. At the vaccine developers PfizerBiontech and Moderna, the declines are now clearly reflected in sales. Keystone/Alessandro Crinari
The fast pace during the pandemic – from research to the availability of the finished vaccines – is also due to the cooperation with the regulatory authorities.
One can draw on such experiences.
Jürg Granwehr from the industry association Scienceindustries confirms that it is a positive experience for the entire industry to fall back on. He also emphasizes that fluctuations in orders are nothing unusual in themselves: “In this specific case, however, there was very strong demand in a very short time, which is now falling again quickly.”
Uncertainty with EU presses far more
Fluctuating sales figures and margins are therefore everyday concerns. The industry sees the much bigger problem in the political framework. Almost half of all exports go to the EU, but what this will look like in the future is uncertain.
This worries the entrepreneurs, since the uncertainty affects numerous aspects: “It’s about production, but also about participation in research programs and solutions to energy issues and ultimately about access to skilled workers,” Grahnwehr recalls.
Without a definitive clarification of the relationship with the EU, it will remain difficult, even if the industry is ever so flexible, diligent and inventive.