Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla enjoyed a vaccine windfall this week after a surge in the US drugmaker's share price prompted the sale of US$5.6 million ($8.1m) of stock he owned in the company.
Shares in Pfizer leapt as much as 15 per cent on Monday after the pharmaceutical company and Germany's BioNTech revealed that a Covid-19 vaccine they are developing was found to be more than 90 per cent effective.
The news was hailed by investors as the most promising yet on a potential vaccine for a virus that has killed more than 1.2m people and sent the global economy into recession. Public health experts also welcomed the interim results of the phase 3 trials, saying it increased the chances that other potential vaccines relying on the novel mRNA technology would be effective.
The S&P 500 touched an intraday record on Monday, while shares in companies hit hardest by the pandemic, such as airlines, soared.
On the same day, Bourla, who has led Pfizer since early 2019, sold 132,508 shares at US$41.94 each, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In a statement, Pfizer said that the stock sale was part of a pre-arranged 10b5-1 plan. Such plans allow executives and other corporate insiders to sell a number of shares within a pre-determined timeframe and price range, so as to avoid allegations of using non-public company information for personal gain.
"The sale of these shares is part of Bourla's personal financial planning and a pre-established (10b5-1) plan, which allows, under SEC rules, major shareholders and insiders of exchange-listed corporations to trade a pre-determined number of shares at a pre-determined time," Pfizer said.
"Through our stock plan administrator, Bourla authorised the sale of these shares on August 19 2020, provided the stock was at least at a certain price," Pfizer added.
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Pfizer shares hit an intraday high of US$41.99 on Monday, before closing up 7.7 per cent at US$39.20. They were at US$38.38 in early afternoon trading on Wednesday.
Pfizer said that following the sale, Bourla owns shares in the group worth about nine times his salary.On Wednesday, Pfizer and BioNTech said they had finalised a deal with the EU to supply up to 300m doses of the jab, pending regulatory approval from the European Medicines Agency, with the first deliveries possible by the end of the year. Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.
Written by: Donato Paolo Mancini and David Carnevali
© Financial Times