Profiting from Health Care's Rebound
02/24/2010 12:00 pm EST
Elliott Gue, editor of Personal Finance, says two health care companies are particularly well positioned—and attractively priced—to profit from the sector’s recovery.
Health care stocks have a well-deserved reputation for resiliency. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Health Care index handily outperformed a weak market in early 2009.
This outperformance ended when health care reform talk in Washington threatened to undermine the group’s profitability. Key health care indexes underperformed the S&P 500.
[But as] planned reforms were watered down to make them more palatable in the Senate, health care stocks regained their footing, [and] 2010 looks very bright for the sector.
On a price-to-book-value basis, the S&P 500 Health Care sector trades at a 25% premium to the S&P 500, well under its average 75% premium. In the five years after President Clinton’s health care reforms failed in Congress, health care stocks outperformed the S&P 500 by a two-to-one margin.
Baxter International (NYSE: BAX) operates in three major business segments: biosciences, medication delivery, and renal. The first is Baxter’s most important business, accounting for close to half of sales and 70% of total pre-tax income.
The company’s major products are injectable treatments that are manufactured from human blood plasma. Baxter’s first plasma-based treatment was developed for hemophilia, a blood disorder that prevents patients’ blood from clotting properly.
Another key plasma-based product is Gammaguard, a treatment for immune deficiencies. Gammaguard is a major near-term growth opportunity for Baxter as well. The drug is in Phase III trials as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, and results are due this spring. And Baxter is also in late-stage testing of a new delivery system that would allow the drug to be taken at home.
In total, Baxter has 14 projects in Phase III trials, up from two in 2006; the company’s research should yield a strong pipeline of new product launches during the next five years. Buy Baxter International under $65. (It closed just below $57 Tuesday—Editor.)
Biotechnology giant Gilead Sciences (NSDQ: GILD) focuses on treatments for HIV; its drugs Atripla and Truvada generate combined quarterly sales of close to $1.4 billion. Roughly 85% of HIV patients in the US take one of these two drugs.
Truvada combines two Gilead antiviral drugs—Viread and Emtriva—whereas Atripla is a mix of Truvada and a Bristol-Meyers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) drug called Sustiva. The three-in-one pill recently overtook Truvada as Gilead’s top seller.
There are a number of [possible] catalysts for Gilead this year. First, Gilead announced positive data from Phase II trial results for its new Quad pill, which combines Truvada with GS 9350, a boosting agent, and a new antiviral compound known as elvitegravir.
Quad is particularly important to Gilead because all the constituent drugs are in-house products; it won’t have to share royalties, as it has with Bristol for Atripla.
During its fourth-quarter conference call, management hiked revenue estimates for 2010, citing strengthening demand for its HIV treatments. Gilead Sciences rates a Buy under $55. (It closed above $47 Tuesday—Editor.)