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Moderna Cuts COVID-19 Vaccine Sales Forecast; Shares Plunge 16%

The company cuts its forecast by $5 billion, as it struggles to fill vials and distribute them around the world.

Video source: YouTube, CNBC Television

By Manas Mishra and Carl O'donnel

Moderna Inc (MRNA) on Thursday slashed the 2021 sales forecast for its COVID-19 vaccine by as much as $5 billion, as it struggles to fill vials and distribute them around the world, sending its shares down nearly 15% before the opening bell.

Moderna executives said production challenges now lie with bottling up doses, also known as fill and finish, and ramping up infrastructure to deliver them internationally, rather than production of raw material.

The U.S. drugmaker said it is hiring more manufacturing workers and investing additional resources in its production lines to increase the number of doses it can release each week.

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines, like those of its peer Pfizer Inc (PFE), require more demanding cold storage than other shots, creating logistical challenges in shipping them, especially to poorer countries that lack extensive cold storage infrastructure.

"The key challenges were around product release, as the supply chain became more complex with increased deliveries around the world," said Chief Executive Officer Stephane Bancel.

The company's sales target cut is in sharp contrast to that of larger rival Pfizer, which earlier this week raised the sales forecast for its shot. read more

Moderna's contract manufacturer Lonza has been ramping up manufacturing, and Moderna has also enlisted Spain's Rovi, another contract drugmaker that is already bottling Moderna's vaccine, to build new ingredient production facilities in Granada to lift European output.

Bancel said the work was now complete, and "we should see a positive impact from this expansion very soon."

Moderna said it was now expecting 2021 sales of between $15 billion and $18 billion from $20 billion estimated previously.

Deliveries were pegged between 700 million and 800 million doses for the year, down from its prior forecast of between 800 million to 1 billion.

The COVID-19 vaccine brought in sales of $4.8 billion in the third quarter. Analysts had expected sales of $5.86 billion, according to five analysts polled by Refinitiv.

Still, Moderna said its sales could be in the range of $17 billion to $22 billion next year as it signs deals with more countries for its vaccines and booster doses.

Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru and Carl O'Donnell in New York; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Bernard Orr.


Sources: Reuters, CNBC Television