Illumina

01/06/2015 7:00 am EST

Focus: STOCKS

Stephen Quickel

Editor, US Investment Report

My more-speculative favorite for 2015 is a little-known but remarkably innovative San Diego-based healthcare company that is regarded as the world leader in a genomic technology called Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), explains Stephen Quickel, editor of US Investment Report.

NGS, in layman's terms, uses an array of clinical technologies and tools to analyze genetic variations and functions that today make it possible for pharmaceutical and biotech companies to come up with new drugs and treatments that were not imaginable a few years ago.

At present, the total available market for NGS technology is put at $20 billion. Illumina (ILMN) is well-positioned to snare as much as half of that enormous market.  That's right, $10 billion.

Besides drug companies, ILMN's technology and analytical platforms are used by research centers, academic institutions, government laboratories, and hospitals.

Revenues are already on a fast track, rising from $1 billion in 2011 to an estimated $1.85 billion for 2014, with $2.35 billion projected for 2015. As the bottom line, the company earned $1.80 per share in 2013, $2.64 in 2014, and is currently expected to net $3.16 in 2015.

Recently, both the 2014 and 2015 forecasts were upped considerably by analysts, from $2.30 and $2.83, respectively. The consensus earnings estimate for 2016 is $3.90.

The only significant investment drawback is ILMN's valuation; its P/E ratio is 47 times estimated 2016 earnings of $3.90 per share. But the growth factor is the key element for this stock.

Revenues have been growing 20% to 30% a year. Annual earnings growth averaged 24.7% the last five years and analysts look for another 24.7% a year the next five as well.

Yet even that revved up growth leaves the stock with a PEG ratio (P/E divided by growth rate) of 2.00, twice the ideal PEG of 1.00. 

In this respect, you should buy the ongoing earnings, but with firm stop-loss limits and your parachute handy. In my view, Illumina is a young company whose pathway to the stars is just opening up.

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