A: A year ago, no one could have predicted the world's largest drug company would select as its chief executive a lawyer with a relatively short pharmaceutical industry background.
Wall Street seems delighted with the prospect of Kindler not only shaking up the stagnant company, but also guiding it through a maze of patent disputes, product lawsuits and federal regulation.
Pfizer (PFE) stock has gained 20 percent this year, reviving from declines of 13 percent last year and 24 percent in 2004.
The company beat earnings expectations in the second quarter on strong sales of its powerhouse cholesterol drug Lipitor and raised its guidance for the full year. It remains in excellent financial condition, with an AAA credit rating, strong dividend and aggressive share buyback program.
Kindler, a veteran of McDonald's Corp. and General Electric Co., receives a base salary of $1.35 million and will be eligible to earn a bonus equal to 150 percent of salary.
But don't be impressed with those numbers. He replaces former CEO Henry McKinnell, who earned $5.97 million in salary and bonus last year, and has an employment contract permitting a lump payment of $83 million at retirement.
While McKinnell remains chairman until February, he will leave a year earlier than scheduled due to controversy over his compensation and the company's lackluster returns.
The consensus recommendation on shares of the changing Pfizer is a "buy," according to Thomson Financial, consisting of seven "strong buys," eight "buys," eight "holds" and one "sell."
A panel of the Food and Drug Administration recently said Pfizer's anti-blood-clotting drug Fragmin warrants wider approval. Pfizer also expects to register its HIV treatment with the FDA and in other countries for approval by year-end.
Pfizer has 14 of the world's 25 best-selling drugs, but it depends on five of those for nearly half its pharmaceutical revenues. Only three of its top 10 drugs are the result of its own research and development.
It also faces a patent challenge in federal court on top-seller Lipitor. And the FDA ordered Pfizer to withdraw its Bextra pain reliever and put a strong warning on Celebrex packaging.
Earnings are expected to increase 2.6 percent this year and 6 percent next year, with a predicted 4.5 percent annualized growth rate over the next five years.
Q: Should I continue to hold shares of CGM Realty Fund? -- K.C., via the Internet
A: Portfolio manager Ken Heebner's agile mind is constantly working the market angles, leading to bold investment moves.
In light of the dramatic gains real estate funds have made, however, you must decide whether you feel confident about the near-term future. Also realize that this fund is different from most competitors that invest almost entirely in real estate investment trusts. Heebner can invest 20 percent of his portfolio in anything he wishes.
The $1.4 billion CGM Realty Fund (CGMRX) is up 30 percent over the past 12 months to rank in nearly the lowest one-fourth of the booming real estate fund category. But its three-year annualized return of 33 percent and five-year annualized return of 35 percent rank within the top 2 percent of its peers.
"Heebner is generally more right than wrong, but he can have explosive returns and then be really wrong," said Laura Pavlenko Lutton, an analyst with Morningstar Inc. in Chicago. "In recent years he did well with home builders and then energy, and currently has one-third of his portfolio in hotels."