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At this rate, we're hardly going to be able to call the world's largest generic-drug maker, Teva Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: TEVA ) , a generic-drug maker at all. In the fourth quarter, branded products at Teva made up 40% of sales, up from 30% in the year-ago quarter.
The additional branded products came from its acquisition of Cephalon last year, but Teva's legacy branded drugs also contributed to the 27% increase in branded sales. Multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone jumped 11%, and respiratory drugs ProAir and Qvar were up 26% and 27%, respectively.
Generics weren't exactly lagging, up 12% in the fourth quarter. The only weak spot was the U.S., where sales fell 5% despite launches of a generic version of Eli Lilly's (NYSE: LLY ) Zyprexa and an agreement with Ranbaxy to launch its generic version of Pfizer's (NYSE: PFE ) Lipitor. The release of a generic version of Forest Labs' (NYSE: FRX ) Lexapro later this year should help. With the cutthroat market for pricing of U.S. generics, sales growth is very dependent on big launches.
Teva has also made a push into the over-the-counter business. While sales make up only a small portion of total revenue, they grew 19% during the quarter as its joint venture with Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG ) ramps up.
This diversification was necessary if Teva was going to grow further. It's mastered the generic-drug space's bigger-is-better philosophy, but growth by acquisition can't continue forever. There are only so many generic-drug makers left and only so many new territories to move into.
But don't be lulled into thinking the added branded products make Teva less risky. If anything, I think increasing branded exposure makes the company more risky, considering that they expose the company to patent risk. Yes, Teva already faced that problem with Copaxone, which made up 18% of the company's revenue in 2010. Teva is now less dependent on Copaxone, but it's more dependent in general on branded products and their patents.
For a health-care stock not dependent on products about to face a patent expiration and poised to profit of favorable demographic changes, take a look at what Fool analysts believe is the next rule-breaking multibagger. Get the free report.