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I love Israeli culture here in Los Angeles. There are loads of cafes where Israelis take customer service very seriously. If your pita bread is stale, they'll take the plate back and bring you a whole new meal. They go out of their way to make sure you're happy.
Perhaps that focus on what's best for the customer is one reason for the success of Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (Nasdaq: TEVA ) . Teva originally provided generic drugs, but now also makes its own branded drugs, joining a move toward diversification by many monoline operations, such as Pharmaceutical Product Development (Nasdaq: PPDI ) .
Copaxone was Teva's first in-house drug. Since its launch, the company has created a branded drug for Parkinson's disease, as well as selling proprietary respiratory and women's health products. The extraordinary thing about Teva is its longevity. Pharmaceutical companies can be risky plays, but Teva has consistently managed to innovate, expand market share, and grow operations and sales globally since incorporation in 1944. Meanwhile, companies like Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY ) more or less plod along, and stock returns reflect this. Since 1990, Teva is up 10,000%. Lilly is up 300%. Not shabby if you're a Lilly holder, but not so nice compared to Teva.
Teva just keeps on plugging, much like its home country. In the U.S. in 2009 alone, Teva launched 19 generic products, got approvals for 27 more as well as 10 tentative approvals (which just require the patent for the branded drug to expire before full approval), and have 216 more in the wings. Add in a transparent annual report and great earnings, and you see why Teva has been so successful.
Over the past five years, revenue has nearly tripled while gross profit has tripled. Net income has doubled. It has $2.2 billion in cash, and $5.6 billion in debt, but generated $2.6 billion in free cash flow in 2009. That's plenty to keep the debt under control in my eyes.
Teva has been in existence since 1944. Given Israel's penchant to survive numerous threats of extinction, I'm betting on Teva to do the same. Plus, the fact that Teva has been a 100-bagger since its 1990 IPO says to me: It's a forever hold.
This is a bull argument for owning Teva. Be sure to check out the bear side.
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