NEW YORK, Feb 28 — Covid-19 vaccine maker Novavax today said it expects revenue this year to be flat or lower as it works to improve its commercial performance and pick up market share from much larger rivals, Pfizer and Moderna.

The company posted a larger-than-expected fourth-quarter loss as revenue lagged analysts' estimates.

Chief Executive John Jacobs said Novavax claimed just a low-single-digit percentage market share in the US during the most recent vaccination campaign, as demand for Covid vaccines was smaller than hoped and the company got its protein-based shot to market later than its messenger RNA-based rivals.

"We were disappointed with that US performance," Jacobs said in an interview.

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He said the company's sales force was not targeted enough toward retail pharmacy chains, and that its 5-dose vials were not as convenient for use as rivals' pre-filled syringes.

"Our intention this year is to be much more competitive. Pre-filled syringes are our target in the US market," the CEO said, adding that there will also be a focus on "much more broad retail availability and much better contracts."

The company posted a fourth-quarter loss of US$1.44 (RM6.90) a share on revenue of US$291 million. Analysts, on average, had expected a loss of 45 cents and revenue of about US$322 million, according to LSEG data.

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Novavax said it expects 2024 revenue to be in the range of US$800 million to US$1 billion, compared with US$984 million in 2023. The Maryland-based company cut its first-quarter revenue forecast to US$100 million from its previous view of US$300 million.

Jacobs said the company does not anticipate profitability this year, and will continue to drive down costs. It expects research and development and selling, general and administrative expenses to drop to between US$700 to US$800 million from over US$1.2 billion in 2023.

Novavax raised doubts about its ability to remain in business last year, after its market value surged to over US$20 billion early in the pandemic as it worked to develop its shot. The company was plagued by manufacturing snags and regulatory delays and was unable to get its shot to market in a timely manner.

As a result, Novavax shares have since lost around 98 per cent of their value, resulting in a market capitalization of less than US$700 million.

Last week, the company agreed to pay back international vaccine group Gavi at least US$475 million in cash or vaccines by the end of 2028, settling a dispute that had created significant financial uncertainty.

Still, the company's warning about its ability to remain in business remains in place. "Should we have a successful year and we execute to our base plan, I think we'd be in a position where we start contemplating the lifting of that," Jacobs said.

"We've gotten better, faster, more lean and now we need to really prove out that execution in the commercial market." — Reuters