Call me crazy, but I don't think Celgene Corporation (NASDAQ:CELG) is quite as expensive as it looks on the surface. Sure, the biotech stock is trading at a price-to-earnings multiple nearly twice that of the average stock in the benchmark S&P 500 index, but the oncology giant's growth spurt is far from over.
To see if Celgene truly is an unlikely value stock, we'll need to look at the drugs and new drug candidates that have pushed the stock price up to nosebleed valuations recently. Let's begin with its flagship therapy, Revlimid.
A first-place contender
It's been 12 years since the FDA approved Revlimid capsules for the treatment of multiple myeloma, an increasingly common blood-based cancer. Sales of the drug continue to soar despite years of availability because Celgene has successfully expanded Revlimid's addressable patient population to include newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patients and people with related blood cancers.
Those label expansions helped first quarter Revlimid sales surge 20% over the same period last year, and the company expects full-year revenue from the therapy to reach between $8.0 billion and $8.3 billion for the full year. That could be enough to make it the second best-selling drug on the planet, behind AbbVie's Humira.
While Revlimid might not top the $16.1 billion in sales Humira generated last year, incoming biosimilar competition for AbbVie's blockbuster gives Celgene's therapy a shot at the top spot in the years ahead.
Staying on top
Revlimid will most likely begin losing ground to generic competition in 2022, but a therapy in development could keep the company on top of the multiple myeloma indication. Celgene's has collaboration agreements in place with over a dozen industry peers, and one with bluebird bio gives the company access to bb2121.
This experimental therapy involves re-engineering a patient's own immune cells to fight multiple myeloma. In a group that had been so heavily pretreated any responders would be impressive, bb2121 produced breathtaking results. All 15 patients showed a response, and the experimental therapy drove the disease into remission for 27% of this group, which had run out of treatment options after multiple relapses.
Celgene may have cut its teeth in the oncology space, but it's already proved its ability to expand into the autoimmune-disorder arena. In 2014, the company launched Otezla for the treatment of psoriasis, and the oral treatment is already on pace to reach the $1 billion dollar mark this year. First-quarter Otezla sales rose 23.5% over the same period last year to $242 million.
Further ahead, the company could make a big splash in two more autoimmune indications with another conveniently administered oral therapy. Ozanimod is in late-stage clinical trials that could support applications for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) and ulcerative colitis.
Earlier this year, Celgene presented some results from an MS trial that showed ozanimod significantly outperformed a popular therapy on two important measurements of efficacy, reducing relapse frequency and the appearance of new or enlarged brain lesions. The company intends to submit an application for the MS indication by the end of the year. If approved, the drug could generate more than $4 billion in annual sales from the MS indication alone.
In the numbers
With a product lineup firing on all cylinders now, and a pipeline chock-full of potential blockbusters, Celgene's bottom line is expected to grow at a 20.7% annual rate over the next five years. That's a bit slower than the 24.9% growth rate the company achieved over the past five years, but it's still fast enough to make this stock look like a bargain.
At recent prices, Celgene stock is trading at about 44.9 times trailing earnings. That's well above the average stock in the S&P 500, which currently trades at about 24.2 times trailing earnings, but you need to look forward to see why this is one of the best value stocks you can buy right now.
The average stock in the same benchmark index currently trades at around 19 times this year's earnings estimates. That means on a forward basis, Celgene is cheaper than average. With late-stage hopefuls such as ozanimod and bb2121 in its pipeline, though, this company's growth story should be anything but ordinary in the years ahead.