Now more than ever, a comfortable retirement depends on secure, stable investments. Unfortunately, the right stocks for retirement won't just fall into your lap. In this series, I look at 10 measures to show what makes a great retirement-oriented stock.
Celgene (Nasdaq: CELG ) is one of the biggest biotech companies in the industry. Unlike many of its smaller peers that don't have even a single approved treatment, Celgene has a well-established stable of drugs and therapies to battle various types of cancer and other immune-related diseases. But with the entire health-care industry dealing with everything from government reform efforts to patent expirations, can Celgene keep up the pace? Below, we'll take a look at how Celgene does on our 10-point scale.
The right stocks for retirees
With decades to go before you need to tap your investments, you can take greater risks, weighing the chance of big losses against the potential for mind-blowing returns. But as retirement approaches, you no longer have the luxury of waiting out a downturn.
Sure, you still want good returns, but you also need to manage your risk and protect yourself against bear markets, which can maul your finances at the worst possible time. The right stocks combine both of these elements in a single investment.
When scrutinizing a stock, retirees should look for:
- Size. Most retirees would rather not take a flyer on unproven businesses. Bigger companies may lack their smaller counterparts' growth potential, but they do offer greater security.
- Consistency. While many investors look for fast-growing companies, conservative investors want to see steady, consistent gains in revenue, free cash flow, and other key metrics. Slow growth won't make headlines, but it will help prevent the kind of ugly surprises that suddenly torpedo a stock's share price.
- Stock stability. Conservative retirement investors prefer investments that move less dramatically than typical stocks, and they particularly want to avoid big losses. These investments will give up some gains during bull markets, but they won't fall as far or as fast during bear markets. Beta measures volatility, but we also want a track record of solid performance as well.
- Valuation. No one can afford to pay too much for a stock, even if its prospects are good. Using normalized earnings multiples helps smooth out one-time effects, giving you a longer-term context.
- Dividends. Most of all, retirees look for stocks that can provide income through dividends. Retirees want healthy payouts now and consistent dividend growth over time -- as long as it doesn't jeopardize the company's financial health.
With those factors in mind, let's take a closer look at Celgene.
What We Want to See
Pass or Fail?
|Size||Market cap > $10 billion||$33.2 billion||Pass|
|Consistency||Revenue growth > 0% in at least four of five past years||5 years||Pass|
|Free cash flow growth > 0% in at least four of past five years||4 years||Pass|
|Stock stability||Beta < 0.9||0.53||Pass|
|Worst loss in past five years no greater than 20%||(19.7%)||Pass|
|Valuation||Normalized P/E < 18||37.68||Fail|
|Dividends||Current yield > 2%||0%||Fail|
|5-year dividend growth > 10%||0%||Fail|
|Streak of dividend increases >= 10 years||NM||NM|
|Payout ratio < 75%||NM||NM|
|Total score||5 out of 8|
Source: S&P Capital IQ. NM = not meaningful; Celgene doesn't pay a dividend. Total score = number of passes.
Celgene weighs in with only five points. Despite impressive growth, the mediocre score shows just how difficult it is for stocks that don't pay dividends to do well on our 10-point scale.
Celgene's big drug is Revlimid, which is a cancer treatment. But it also has drugs like Abraxane, for which it's collecting data as a melanoma treatment.
Biotech has been a big space for acquisitions lately. Gilead Sciences (Nasdaq: GILD ) opened its pocketbook wide to buy Pharmasset for $11 billion late last year, expanding and advancing its pipeline of hepatitis C drugs to go along with its well-established stable of HIV treatments.
But Celgene is staying in the game. Back in January, it bought Avila Therapeutics for $350 million upfront plus as much as $575 million in potential milestone payments on its drugs in development. By tying payments to performance, Celgene ensures that it won't get stuck with a big bill if Avila's drugs don't work.
In fact, some have even thrown out the idea that Celgene itself could be a takeover target. But the company is big enough that only the megacap Pfizer (NYSE: PFE ) would be a practical acquirer, and with it having already gobbled a big bite in Wyeth a few years back, it's unlikely to do another huge buyout so soon afterward.
For retirees and other conservative investors, the big question is whether the lack of a dividend is an insurmountable hurdle for buying Celgene shares. While rival Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN ) pays a dividend, many would argue that it would be better for Amgen -- and is better for Celgene -- to plow money back into drug development. If you believe that, then Celgene is a reasonable bet for a risk-tolerant retirement investor.
Finding exactly the right stock to retire with is a tough task, but it's not impossible. Searching for the best candidates will help improve your investing skills, and teach you how to separate the right stocks from the risky ones.
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