Two Discounts for the Price of One

09/23/2010 9:22 am EST


Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor,

At current prices, I think you’re getting two of Abbott Laboratories’ (NYSE: ABT) most interesting growth opportunities at a deep discount.

Abbott is a good mainstream pharmaceutical company. Its blockbuster drugs include Humira (for rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis, $5.5 billion in 2009 sales); Kaletra (for HIV/AIDS, $1.4 billion in revenues last year); the TriCor/Triplex combination (for cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, $1.3 billion), and Lupron (for prostate cancer, $800 million) The patent on Humira doesn’t expire until 2016. Pharmaceuticals accounted for 53% of operating revenue in 2008.

Abbott’s vascular products unit—9% of operating revenue—is on a new-product roll with the release of its new Xience drug-coated stent. Launched in 2008, Xience is the leading drug-coated coronary and carotid stent in the US.

My guess, though, is that most investors aren’t as familiar with Abbott’s nutritional and emerging- market/generic businesses. And I don’t think the current stock price fully reflects the growth prospects in those areas of the company.

Nutritionals made up about 17% of Abbott’s sales in 2009. Products include infant formula (Similac and Isomil are the brands) and adult nutritionals (Ensure and Prosure.) (Abbott just announced a recall of some types of Similac, because of the “remote possibility” they may have beetles or beetle larvae in them—Editor.)

This business segment grew revenue by 7.3% from 2008 to 2009, and I think growth could actually accelerate. Rising income levels are driving sales of infant and adult nutritionals in emerging markets, and Abbott has been increasing its penetration, especially in China, Southeast Asia, and Latin America through moves like the 2009 acquisition of the nutritional business of India’s Wickhardt Ltd.

The other unrecognized part of Abbott’s business is epitomized by its acquisition of Solvay Pharmaceuticals. The acquisition, which closed in February 2010, expands Abbott’s market share in emerging economies in Eastern Europe, Russia,

India, and Brazil and brings the company a portfolio of branded generic drugs. The generic drug market in developing economies is growing much faster than the drug market in the US and other developed economies.

Wall Street analysts project 11.4% earnings growth for Abbott in 2010 and 11.6% in 2011. I think that’s a bit low given the momentum in emerging markets sales and in the nutritional segment. But even on those conservative estimates, at Thursday’s close of $51.60, the stock sells for just 11.1x projected 2011 earnings.

The shares currently pay a 3.4% dividend yield. Do I need to remind you that the yield on ten-year Treasuries is just 2.54%? (For more on the dividend picture right now see my post.)

I’m adding Abbott to Jubak’s Picks with a target price of $68 a share by September 2011.

Full disclosure: I don’t own shares of any company mentioned in this post.

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