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3 Under-the-Radar Healthcare Stocks With Great Growth Potential

By Keith Speights - Updated Apr 9, 2019 at 2:06PM

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These winning stocks don't make many headlines, but are quietly delivering strong revenue and earnings growth.

Have you ever had the feeling that you might be overlooking some great stocks? The reality is that it's next to impossible to keep track of all the promising stocks on the market.

Three under-the-radar stocks that appear to have great growth potential are PRA Health Sciences (PRAH), Medpace Holdings (MEDP 0.05%), and Syneos Health (SYNH 1.63%). All three are contract research organizations (CROs) that help assist drugmakers in conducting clinical trials. You might not have heard much about these stocks, but there's a lot to like.

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1. PRA Health Sciences

Shares of PRA Health Sciences have jumped nearly 17% so far in 2019. The CRO posted revenue growth last year of 27.1% and adjusted earnings growth of 29.8%.

You might think that primarily smaller drugmakers would rely on PRA. However, the company's CFO, Michael Bonello, stated in PRA's Q4 conference call that 54% of revenue came from large pharmaceutical companies with another 16% of revenue from big biotechs. 

Currently, only around 40% of clinical development is outsourced to CROs like PRA, but that number could jump to more than 50% over the next few years. PRA Health Sciences also operates a data solutions business that provides data, analytics, technology, and consulting solutions to customers in the life sciences industry. While this is a small part of the company's overall business right now, it wouldn't be surprising to see PRA make additional acquisitions to grow its data solutions operations.

The consensus among Wall Street analysts is that PRA Health Sciences will grow earnings by an average of nearly 16% annually over the next five years. Although that's a slower rate than what the company has generated in recent years, it should be enough for PRA to continue its winning ways.

2. Medpace Holdings

Medpace Holdings stock is up around 13% year to date. The company reported 2018 revenue growth of 23.7% and adjusted earnings growth of 71.7%.

Medpace is a lot smaller than PRA Health Sciences is -- and its customers tend to be smaller as well. CFO Jesse Geiger said in the company's Q4 conference call that Medpace is "focused on serving small and mid-sized biopharma companies," adding that these customers "represent a large portion of our total business and a segment of the market where we see continued opportunities for growth."

Oncology is a particularly strong area for Medpace. However, the company also does a significant amount of work in other therapeutic categories, including cardiology, metabolic disease, endocrinology, central nervous system diseases, and infectious diseases.

Analysts project that Medpace should be able to increase its earnings by an average of 20% annually over the next five years. That's not far below the 23% average annual growth for the company over the last five years, a period where Medpace stock more than doubled.

3. Syneos Health

Syneos Health is the best performer among these three stocks, with shares soaring 33% so far this year. The CRO's total revenue in 2018 increased by 136.9% with adjusted earnings growth of 38.8%. Much of this year-over-year growth, though, stemmed from Syneos Health's merger with inVentiv Health in August 2017.  

The company's great year-to-date performance came despite a report in February that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) launched an investigation into Syneos. The SEC is looking into the company's "revenue accounting policies, internal controls, and related matters" dating back to 2017. Although news of this SEC investigation caused Syneos Health's share price to plunge, the stock has since regained a large portion of its earlier gains. 

Syneos Health entered 2019 with a sales backlog bigger than what the company had going into 2018. The company seems to be especially benefiting from customer adoption of its Syneos One service that provides full advisory and strategic consulting services from the initial part of the drug development process all the way through commercialization. 

Wall Street thinks that Syneos Health's growth trajectory will taper off somewhat in the future, with earnings growth projections of around 11.5% annually over the next five years. The company's management, though, remains optimistic about Syneos' long-term prospects. 

Some risks

While all three of these should be able to deliver solid returns to investors, there are some risks to know about. Medpace CEO August James Troendle noted that there had been a softening in the overall CRO business environment in the fourth quarter. It could be that the company's focus on smaller drugmakers makes Medpace more vulnerable than its peers. 

There are also risks associated with trade tensions between the U.S. and China. PRA Health Sciences could be most sensitive to any fallout on this front since the company has a significant presence in the Asia Pacific market.

Still, the long-term outlook for all three of these stocks should be pretty good. The high costs and difficulties in navigating regulatory processes associated with drug development make the value proposition offered by CROs attractive to many drugmakers. PRA Health Sciences, Medpace, and Syneos Health might not stay under the radar for too much longer.

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Stocks Mentioned

PRA Health Sciences, Inc. Stock Quote
PRA Health Sciences, Inc.
PRAH
Syneos Health, Inc. Stock Quote
Syneos Health, Inc.
SYNH
$70.91 (1.63%) $1.14
Medpace Holdings, Inc. Stock Quote
Medpace Holdings, Inc.
MEDP
$133.87 (0.05%) $0.07

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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