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Whatever Their Q1 2016 Earnigns, Biotech/Biopharma Companies Are Strong Long-Term Plays

We’re into our third week of Q1 2016 earnings reports, and we have seen sectors we thought would horribly disappoint, beat estimates, while those that many thought would beat with flying colors, disappointed.

Up this week to report their most recent earnings are several biotech and biopharma companies. Despite the volatility in the spaces, I like them because regardless of their size or specific designations, many of the firms that operate in the spaces are making considerable strides that should pay off over the long-term. This includes Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN), Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD), and INSYS Therapeutics (NASDAQ: INSY).

I won’t make the mistake of trying to predict how the earnings of these companies will come in for the first quarter of this year. As I noted above, we have already seen the trappings of such guesses. The big banks beat estimates, and many did so on both their top and bottom lines. That had not been expected given the many challenges the banking space has faced, including strict regulations and the low interest rate environment.

When many of the tech giants prepared to report last week, it was anticipated by many observers that these companies would strongly beat estimates. However, many of them failed to live up to investors’ expectations on earnings and guidance. That sent many of their stocks tanking.


 · Biotech versus biopharma


To be clear, there is a difference between biotech firms and biopharma firms, which affects the strategy you may use in investing in them. For the most part, biotech firms are riskier investments than biopharma companies because they have more products in the research and development (R&D) stages than do biopharma companies. Because a biotech firm may have few, or no, products on the market, they are not receiving revenue from their efforts. Biopharma companies, on the other hand, likely have products for sale in the market. They are likely to be not using as much operating cash on R&D. The existence of revenue from products being sold can position biopharma stocks as more attractive and less volatile than biotech stocks.


 · Growing up


One of the most popular companies in the biotech space that I anticipate faring well over the long term is Amgen. It reports on Thursday after the bell. While the consensus is that it will report an earnings per share of $2.56, the “whisper” EPS is $2.70. Its market cap has grown from $50 billion five years ago, to $122 billion today.

Also, there has been impressive growth in its EPS, which has climbed to $9.06 at the end of fiscal 2015 from $4.04 in 2011.

Amgen’s growth largely stems from the company being able to grow many of their products from their infant stages of R&D to products that are now on the market. One of those products is Enbrel, which is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

Over the long-term, I expect to see Amgen continue to grow its net income and revenues, while expanding its profit margins and maintaining reasonable valuation levels.


 · Diverse offerings


In the bio space, it is important that companies have diverse offerings. Take Gilead, for example. As a biopharma company, Gilead develops and markets drugs to treat patients with infectious diseases, including bacterial, fungal and viral infections. It makes the popular Tamiflu, which is use to prevent the flu. Gilead’s HIV drug offerings are also popular.

Tech Investing Daily points out that Gilead’s earnings for 2015 hit $9.28 a share, which is more than four times its earnings in 2013. On a year-over-year basis, quarterly earnings are up a “healthy” 22.9%, according to Tech Investing.

Like Amgen, Gilead has enjoyed expanding profit margins. Also, its total revenue continues to grow impressively. The S&P Capital IQ found the company’s total revenue grew roughly 30% from 2014 to 2015.
With a market cap of $138 billion, Gilead is the largest company operating in its space. It trades at discounted valuations compared to its competitors. This could be due to the slowing growth of its hepatitis C drug. Called Sovaldi, the expectation that the sales of the drug in the coming months will not be as strong as they have been previously could be contributing to the company’s low valuations.

In spite of Gilead’s overall growth, the company still trades at a P/E of 8.55. That compares to its peers’ much higher P/E ratios. Amgen’s is 18.01 and Insys Therapeutics’ is 20.94.


 · A smaller player making strides


Lastly, I took a look at Insys Therapeutics and its efforts in developing products to treat epileptic children who have treatment resistant seizures, as well as people in their final stages of cancer who have developed a tolerance to most opioids.

Insys Therapeutics touts itself as a specialty pharmaceutical company that develops and commercializes innovative drugs and novel drug delivery systems of therapeutic molecules that could help improve the quality of life of patients.
However, recent developments are raising concerns over the use of its main drug, which could negatively affect the drug’s sales, and the company’s earnings. The concerns are over its Subsys drug, which is reportedly 100 times more potent than morphine.

Sales of the drug began to flatten during fiscal 2015. The company’s guidance indicates that sales of the drug during Q1 2016 would come in almost $25 million lower than analysts’ estimates of $86 million.
Despite the lowered expectation for the first quarter, analysts are confident about the stock’s performance over the next 12 months. The average 12-month price target is $23, suggesting upside of 61% from recent levels near $14.25.

A decision about Syndros from the Food and Drug Administration is expected by July 1. Also, Insys Therapeutics’ pipeline includes a synthetic cannabidiol for certain childhood epilepsy syndromes.

The Street summed up Insys Therapeutics this way. The company exhibits strength and weakness, “with little evidence to justify the expectation of either a positive or negative performance for this stock relative to most other stocks. The company’s strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures and compelling growth in net income. However, as a counter to these strengths, we find that the stock has had a generally disappointing performance in the past year.”

So for this stock, the temptation may be to sell it if you own it, but don’t. Instead, if you own it, hold it. I’d wait until at least the FDA has made its decision before jumping in. A key factor in making your decision relates to the company’s ability to remain profitable despite lower sales for Subsys, and the delay in making any sales from Syndros as it awaits the FDA’s decision.


 · Moving forward


Whether they define themselves as biotech or biopharma, companies in this space have considerable potential to grow significantly over the long term due to the much-needed medicines they develop. In the short-term, the market for these stocks will continue to be volatile. For those with long-term investment ideals, biotech and biopharma companies may be the way to go.

2 responses to “Whatever Their Q1 2016 Earnigns, Biotech/Biopharma Companies Are Strong Long-Term Plays”

  1. amber tree says:

    Thx for defining biopharma and biotech. I never looked at it like that.

    are there specific trackers that you follow in this space?

    • Tedra says:

      Hi Amber
      Good to hear your thoughts…While I look at technicals, I favor focusing on a company’s fundamentals.

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