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History Comes Back to Haunt Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Sending Shares Down 8% in March

By Sean Williams - Apr 5, 2017 at 8:20AM

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Worries over Copaxone, drug price reform, and its debt continue to weigh on Teva's share price.

What happened

Shares of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (TEVA 1.53%), an Israeli-based producer of generic and branded drugs, sank another 8% in March, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. Shares of Teva have now lost half their value since the beginning of 2016. Last month, a couple of ongoing themes reared their heads and pushed Teva lower.

So what

For starters, there's still uncertainty over what will happen with multiple sclerosis injectable drug Copaxone. Teva Pharmaceutical has been using the power of the legal system to delay the entrance of generic versions of Copaxone for years, and it's even reformulated the drug so that it can be injected three-times weekly as opposed to once every day, making it more convenient for the patient. Nonetheless, the future is uncertain for this critical profit producer.

Pills sitting atop a hundred dollar bill.

Image source: Getty Images.

President Trump also made things a bit uneasy for Teva in March. Trump once again tweeted that he would find a way to lower drug pricing in America, which is a worrisome development for all drugmakers. In some ways, Teva, which is the largest generic-drug producer in the world, could benefit from an increased push toward generic medicines. But generic-drug producers thrive off a big gap in branded and generic pricing. And, let's not forget that drug price reform could still hurt Teva's branded-drug segment.

Additionally, Teva was forced to deal with rumors that it was set to lay off about 6,000 people from its workforce to reduce its expenses. For those who may not recall, its acquisition of Actavis put Teva in a pretty deep debt hole, and reduced expenditures via layoffs are a genuine possibility. The rumored layoffs turned out to be false, but it nonetheless struck a chord with investors.

Now what

Teva certainly has its fair share of problems, which also include the recent departure of its CEO and the admission and settlement of bribery charges in three foreign countries. Despite all of this, this Fool and current shareholder believes there's long-term value in its stock.

A pharmacist handing out a prescription.

Image source: Getty Images.

While it did pile on the debt, the acquisition of Actavis should save Teva about $1.4 billion annually by 2019, and it greatly expands the company's generics portfolio. Between the growing demand for generics, the endless supply of branded drugs losing patent protection, and the improved pricing power that likely comes with being the market share leader in generic production, Teva should see margin improvement in the not-too-distant future.

I also believe that Teva has done a sufficiently good job of reformulating Copaxone and moving its patients to the new formulation. Copaxone has been around long enough and built up enough rapport with patients and physicians that losses to generic competition could be far less than projected.

And, of course, there's Teva's exceptionally inexpensive valuation. The company is valued at less than seven times forward earnings, and it's sporting a market-topping 3.6% dividend yield. For patient investors, Teva still looks like a winner. 

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