2012's Best Pharmaceutical Stock

Big Pharma stocks have rewarded shareholders handsomely in 2012, with shares of many of the top names in the industry up 20% or 30% year to date. While there are plenty of good choices among pharmaceuticals to pick from, perhaps no major player has performed better this year than highflying Novo Nordisk (NYSE: NVO  ) . While you might justifiably shy away from this stock's recent run-up, Novo Nordisk boasts both financial excellence and a strong company portfolio of products and pipeline that make it more than worthy for growth investors' portfolios.

Financial fortitude
Despite the patent cliff that has begun to send the largest pharmaceutical players scrambling to replace their best products, Novo Nordisk has remained a pinnacle of financial fortitude for the industry. The company ranks competitively against rivals in the industry, even though it's priced with a rather significant premium.

Company

P/E

YTD Share Price Gain

Net Profit Margin

Dividend Yield

Add to My Watchlist

Novo Nordisk

27.6

37.9%

26.3%

1.2%

Add NVO

Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY  )

13.6

20.1%

18.2%

3.8%

Add LLY

Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT  )

16

15.4%

16.6%

3.1%

Add ABT

Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  )

19.1

15.8%

15.8%

3.4%

Add PFE

Sources: Yahoo! Finance and Motley Fool CAPS.

With 17% year-over-year sales  growth for the first half of 2012, Novo Nordisk has done well continuing to grow -- and it's translated in the company's stock. Earnings have also risen for the company, driving that chart-topping margin with growth of 20% as of the company's last filing. While it may not be much for income investors out there, Novo Nordisk's growth potential looks great. Analysts predict an average of 19.6% growth next year  and annualized 16.5% growth over the next five years, both numbers beating sector averages.

This company's success isn't all in the broad numbers, as good as they might look. Novo Nordisk's success in 2012 deserves a deeper look.

Diabetes dominance
Novo Nordisk's pipeline should have investors confident in this company despite the expiration of many high-value drugs this year and in the near future. The company currently boasts eight  drugs in phase 3 trials or already filed with regulators.

Although the company may struggle with patent expirations  regarding its best-selling drug for the first half of 2012, insulin drug Novorapid, Novo Nordisk's pipeline sports a number of diabetes-combating insulins in various stages of development. That's especially key for this company's future, given the trend of diabetes around the world. With the number of diabetes sufferers  rising to nearly 350 million people worldwide in 2008 -- and expected to grow far more with rising rates of obesity -- Novo Nordisk will have plenty of customers regardless of stiff competition in the diabetes arena from the likes of Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) and Sanofi (NYSE: SNY  ) .

However, the company's diabetes products have also done extremely well recently, helping to drive up investor optimism and the stock. Its Victoza drug, which doesn't go  off-patent until 2017, grew sales  by more than 80% in the first half of 2012 to rank among its best-selling drugs. The diabetes segment as a whole grew  by 21%, impressive for a division that represented the majority of the company's sales.

The company got a further boost  recently, when Europe's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) recommended approval for diabetes treatments tresiba and ryzodeg, both of which have already been approved in Japan and are under consideration in the United States. European regulators also offered positive sentiment earlier in the year on another filed  drug, rFXIII, aimed at treating a rare bleeding deficiency. The string of minor victories has had Novo Nordisk shareholders smiling, but full approvals of these candidates will do even more for the stock.

No time to stop this growth
The company's plans to capitalize on the future look strongly aligned with projections for growth. If Novo Nordisk manages to continue pumping out its products at industry-topping margins, it's reasonable to expect this stock to continue its climb. The company has put all the pieces together for a long future of success in the rapidly growing diabetes sector and elsewhere. Investors might hesitate to pull the trigger on buying this pharmaceutical giant with a high valuation, but Novo Nordisk's past success and future plans show that it's not a growth stock ready to slow anytime soon.

While you can certainly make huge gains in biotech and pharmaceuticals, the best investing approach is to choose great companies and stick with them for the long term. In our free report "3 Stocks That Will Help You Retire Rich," we name stocks that could help you build long-term wealth and retire well, along with some winning wealth-building strategies that every investor should be aware of. Click here now to keep reading.

Dan Carroll and The Motley Fool have no positions in the stocks mentioned above. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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