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Is Teva Pharmaceutical a Forever Hold?

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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.

Why own lumbering low-growth giants like Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) , Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) , or even Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN  ) , when you have a locomotive like Teva?

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.

Research these other Foolish drugs:

Rick Steier has no position in any stocks mentioned. Pfizer is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Pharmaceutical Product Development is a Stock Advisor selection. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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  • Report this Comment On April 09, 2010, at 9:57 AM, mgw6 wrote:

    Teva has what Big Pharma needs. Broad, diverse product portfolio that the market needs, at prices the market is willing to pay, channel management (distribution and managed market) relationships that are as important as the products they sell, and strong stable management that has fine tuned and evolved their business model to keep in aligned with the market. Perhaps the single most important strategic advantage Teva has is that they understand and are used to operating on thin margins. Focused research (on high value opportunities), lean operations, and infrastructure consistent with their needs.

    Mike Wokasch

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