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September 16, 2021updated 17 Sep 2021 1:36pm

Tracking the pharma sector’s Covid-19 recovery: how has the sector fared in Q2 2021?

By Patrick Scott

The pharma sector has emerged as a relatively strong performer in the world economy when it comes to post-pandemic performance in Q2 2021.

Activity levels in the sector were 16.4% higher than they were at the end of 2019, before the pandemic decimated economies across the world. This means that, of the 18 sectors included in the analysis, the pharma sector ranks seventh in terms of its latest value for Covid-19 activity recovery.

The healthcare sector saw the highest sector activity levels in Q2 2021 relative to the last quarter of 2019, with the automotive, technology and apparel sectors comprising the rest of the top four.

GlobalData's sector activity metric is a derived from several of the company's research datasets. The composite index is composed using a combination of company level data on job advertisements, deals, stock prices and sentiment analysis across financial filings and news reports. It is a dynamic metric taking in millions of datapoints that can be used to track how strongly different sectors or industries are performing.

We can also delve into the component parts of the index to get a sense of exactly where companies from a given sector are over or underperforming. One of the more traditional measures of tracking performance is through the value of company stocks, which we've grouped together by industry to form a stocks performance index for each. After a dip in Spring 2020, the average sector has been performing above pre-pandemic levels since early August 2020. However, the extent of recovery varies by sector.

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Pharma stocks generally underperformed the market in the past year, as per the chart above. By 30 June 2021, stocks in these companies - as tracked by GlobalData - were 31.8% above their starting point in October 2019.

Hiring levels are also useful in determining how confident a company is feeling about the months ahead. GlobalData's jobs index tracks job openings across thousands of companies on a daily basis, allowing us to assess that confidence in real-time and gauge which sectors are feeling Covid-19's impact the hardest.

The number of open job advertisements in pharma is currently at a higher level compared to most other industries, relative to their pre-pandemic norms. By 20 June 2021, the latest date for which data are available, hiring levels were 68.3% higher than those recorded prior to Covid-19's impact. This means that the pharma ranks third out of the 18 sectors analysed when it comes to the recovery of hiring levels.

In addition to jobs and stocks, our composite index also factors deals into account, tracking mergers, acquisitions, private equity and venture capital deals on a daily basis. This, again, can be seen as a good indicator with which to gauge how ambitious companies are feeling, with a greater number of deals indicating a more optimistic outlook.

Relative to pre-pandemic levels, the volume of financial deals in pharma has been higher than that of most other industries over the past 19 months.

By 30 June 2021, pharma deals were 27.8% higher than levels at the start of October 2019. This places the sector in fifth position out of the 18 industries included in the analysis on current deal volume recovery.

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