Big biotech Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB ) has weathered the industry's storm in a rocky 2014. The stock's gained more than 9% despite the biotech sector's fall brought on by nervous investors concerned about the market's rally, and Biogen has plenty of room for optimism. The company's emerged as a dominant player in the growing, lucrative multiple sclerosis space, and it's turned patient investors into rich ones in the five years of the current bull market.
Yet financial performance drives companies, and all eyes have turned to Biogen's first-quarter earnings for the year as the company rallies behind newly launched MS drug Tecfidera. The biotech giant released its results on Wednesday before the opening bell, but Wall Street shrugged its shoulders as this stock fell through most of the trading day. Can investors count on this stock through 2014 in the wake of the first quarter?
Why did the stock fall?
Analysts had expected big things of Biogen going into Wednesday's report. On average, Wall Street projected that the company would manage around 30% year-over-year per-share earnings, with revenue gaining an even stronger amount by 41% over last year's result. With the launch of Tecfidera, that steep hill wasn't such a daunting climb for this biotech star.
Count Wall Street unimpressed despite the company pulling in more than $2 billion in sales, a 51% year-over-year gain that topped analyst expectations. Biogen's earnings did miss the mark, thanks to drug collaboration expenses, but savvy long-term investors shouldn't focus on the one black mark on this company's otherwise standout quarter. Biogen leadership certainly didn't ignore recent gains in boosting the company's revenue growth and earnings outlook for the year.
For Biogen's future, however, it's all about the new drugs hitting the market and set for launch. Its older MS drugs, Tysabri and Avonex, remain the cash cows they are as a stable foundation for investors, but Tecfidera may help pave the way for Biogen's future. The company's newest blockbuster hopeful certainly didn't disappoint, reeling in more than $500 million to top analyst expectations. Tecfidera's already thriving in its short life after hauling in nearly $400 million last quarter, and it's already outselling established leader Tysabri. Previous peak sales estimates that expected the drug to make around $4 billion by 2018 indicate plenty of potential sales moving forward.
Breaking new ground
True, Tecfidera will have to deal with tough competition in this space. Most notably, Novartis' (NYSE: NVS ) Gilenya reigns as the heavyweight in the oral MS market right now, as the drug recorded more than $1.9 billion last year, according to Novartis' most recent full-year report. That was enough to mark 61% year-over-year growth, and Novartis won't allow Biogen the freedom to dominate this space without a fight.
Still, Biogen's optimistic about Tecfidera's prospects this year, and this is a market with plenty of room for multiple leaders to thrive. The New York Times has reported that the MS drug market was worth $14 billion annually as of last year. While the majority of that originated in the U.S., Tecfidera's barely begun generating sales overseas yet, as it recorded international revenue of just $46 million for this quarter. If Biogen can push its new star globally in the next few years, investors could be set for a surprising windfall.
Tecfidera isn't all Biogen has going for it in the near future. The company's embraced diversification, looking outside of the MS market with its recently approved hemophilia B therapy Alprolix. While Alprolix won't launch until next month and analysts only see around $400 million in peak sales for this new drug, it's an important step for Biogen as it looks to broaden its product portfolio across other growing medical markets. The competition's tough here as well, as Baxter (NYSE: BAX ) will square off against Biogen with its own hemophilia B drug, the 2013-approved Rixubis, and Biogen's also pushing against Baxter in the hemophilia A market with its yet-to-be-approved therapy Eloctate. Biogen hopes to launch Eloctate later this year, and analysts see up to $700 million in annual sales from this therapy, giving investors a key new market to keep an eye on.
Overall, Tecfidera and Biogen's up-and-coming hemophilia drugs make it an exciting time for this biotech star and its investors. While tried-and-true Tysabri and Avonex continue to churn out cash for Biogen, it's time to look to the future. What a bright future it could be if Tecfidera keeps up with strong growth in the coming years and Biogen pushes successfully beyond its MS market excellence. Wall Street might be down about Biogen's profit miss today, but smart investors invest for the long term -- and that's exactly where this stock looks the best.
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