Healthcare companies benefit from predictable demand even in the worst of economic times. That's a big reason why every investor should own at least a few healthcare stocks.
So which ones do we like for the long term? We asked a team of Motley Fool contributors to weigh in, and they called out Cardinal Health (NYSE:CAH), CannTrust Holdings (NYSE:CTST), and Abiomed (NASDAQ:ABMD).
On the road to a recovery of its own
Chuck Saletta (Cardinal Health): Health services provider Cardinal Health clocked in a lousy 2018, driven in large part by challenges with generic-drug pricing and a write-off associated with its medical device subsidiary Cordis. Its shares are down over the past year and are much closer to their 52-week lows than their 52-week highs.
While that recent stock performance may be ugly, what investors should care about is the potential for a company's future. On that front, Cardinal Health looks to be in better shape for tomorrow than it was for yesterday. First and foremost, its shares are trading at less than nine times its anticipated earnings, a level that generally only makes sense if a company is expected to be static for the long run. With earnings expected to grow a bit over time, that provides room for positive surprises for its shares.
Even if that modest growth doesn't materialize, Cardinal Health offers a yield of around 4.5%, which looks well covered by its operating cash flows. In addition, it does not carry excessive leverage on its balance sheet, which gives it the financial flexibility to work through a typical downturn should one temporarily derail its recovery efforts.
All told, Cardinal Health's share price currently reflects the difficulties of its recent past better than it projects the potential strength of its near-term future. That makes now a great time to consider investing in its shares.
Ready? Set? Grow!
Sean Williams (CannTrust Holdings): Sure, there are plenty of deep-discount healthcare stocks that I could beat the drum on (ahem, CVS Health (NYSE:CVS)), but I can't think of a more attractive high-growth opportunity in the healthcare space in June than...a marijuana stock. More specifically, CannTrust Holdings.
Ontario-based CannTrust projects as a top-five cannabis grower, with 200,000 kilos to 300,000 kilos in peak annual output. The wide variance in its production estimate ties into its ongoing acquisition of up to 200 acres of land for outdoor growing purposes. While some of this outdoor grow, which'll be capable of 100,000 kilos to 200,000 kilos a year, will wind up in cannabis stores throughout Canada, much of it will be earmarked for extraction purposes to create higher-margin products such as edibles, concentrates, topicals, and so on. In essence, this outdoor grow farm is CannTrust's ticket to better operating margins and a more diversified product portfolio.
The remaining 100,000 kilos of production will come predominantly from the 840,000-square-foot Niagara campus, as well as the 60,000-square-foot Vaughan facility. This combined 900,000 square feet of growing space will be devoted to hydroponic production (i.e., growing cannabis plants in a nutrient-rich water solvent as opposed to soil). Hydroponics can be extremely effective and inexpensive if a grower has access to a cheap source of water and electricity, which CannTrust does at its flagship Niagara facility. Between its indoor and outdoor grow farms, CannTrust should be "all systems grow" by the midpoint of 2020.
There are intangible factors to appreciate as well. CannTrust is one of only four marijuana growers to secure a supply deal with all of Canada's provinces. Although the aggregate value of these supply deals hasn't been divulged by management, simply having them in place is less work CannTrust's marketing team has to do to find a home for its annually produced product.
With recurring profitability likely expected by sometime in 2020 and one of the lowest market caps relative to peak production, CannTrust looks like quite the bargain.
A best-in-breed medical device maker
Brian Feroldi (Abiomed): I've studied a lot of medical device companies over the years, and I must admit that Abiomed is one of my favorites.
Abiomed makes a family of miniaturized heart pumps that are used to treat cardiac disease. Called Impella, Abiomed's devices are used in two primary cases: to help patients recover from a heart attack and to make high-risk heart surgeries safer.
Abiomed's revenue growth over the last decade has been jaw dropping as the company produces more clinical data and wins over reluctant healthcare providers. Management has translated the huge sales leverage into even faster growth on the bottom line. Wall Street has applauded the prosperity by bidding up the share price.
More recently, Abiomed's stock has come under pressure after the company missed its quarterly numbers. While the shortfall isn't good news, management explained that a confusing letter was sent to providers by the FDA that made it seem as if its device was being recalled. That wasn't the case at all, but the company couldn't recover from the fallout in time.
My view is that the miss was a speed bump and that the long-term case for owning this stock is still intact. The company continues to boast an impressive pipeline and is still in the very early innings of international expansion. Those two opportunities alone position the company for long-term success.
While Abiomed's stock still isn't cheap -- shares are trading for 43 times next year's earnings estimates -- I think that this is a best-of-breed medical device company that is worth paying up to own.