J&J’s short, sharp Covid-19 hit could still prove best case

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Johnson & Johnson confirmed today that it expects a big hit to its medtech business from the Covid-19 pandemic, but cushioned the blow by projecting minimal impact to pharmaceutical and consumer health units. A final flurry was a dividend boost, helping the stock to open up almost 4% – a comforting start to big pharma’s first-quarter reporting season. At this stage J&J envisions a $4-7bn dent to its top line this year, largely owing to an expected collapse in orthopaedic surgeries in the second quarter: it sees deferrable procedures slumping 65-85% in the coming weeks. Pharma watchers will be relieved by comments related to its drugs unit: stockpiling provided a boost in Q1, the regulatory process appears unaffected, with review timelines unchanged for now, though the impact on ongoing clinical studies will not be known for a couple more weeks. Executives also said the situation might present “opportunities”, presumably a reference to M&A. However, it is notable that the assumptions behind J&J’s new guidance are based on the pandemic causing only short, sharp shock – its medtech unit needs to start recovering quickly for these numbers to be hit. Unfortunately, this means these forecasts should probably be considered a best-case scenario.

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