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Better Buy: Veeva Systems vs. Cerner

By David Jagielski - Updated Jan 21, 2020 at 5:13PM

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These two stocks give investors a great opportunity to invest in both healthcare and tech.

Veeva Systems (VEEV 3.56%) and Cerner (CERN) offer investors some unique opportunities to invest not only in healthcare but in technology as well. These two stocks can give investors the best of both worlds -- growth and stability. But deciding between the two is no easy task, as investors will need to determine just how much growth they're looking for versus how much stability they require.

Veeva has been on fire and could be headed higher

Veeva's stock has skyrocketed over the past five years, rising a whopping 400%, well in excess of the 62% returns that the S&P 500 has generated during that time. The cloud-software company works in healthcare, but Veeva isn't your typical healthcare stock. With significant technical capabilities, the company is tech giant salesforce.com's "preferred worldwide partner for the pharmaceutical and biotech industry." The two companies have a partnership that extends into 2025, allowing Veeva to develop unique applications for the healthcare industry. 

One of the applications that Veeva has developed with Salesforce is a customer relationship management (CRM) application designed with care providers in mind. Currently, more than 50 biopharmaceutical companies around the world use the software. It's a great growth opportunity for Veeva to reach even more healthcare providers, especially those that may not be all that familiar with CRM.

Cloud computing logo.

Image source: Getty Images.

What investors will love about Veeva is that not only did the stock's revenue climb 25% in the company's fiscal third quarter, but a big chunk of its revenue came from subscriptions. Subscription services totaled $227 million during Q3 and made up 81% of the company's top line, and that's up from 79% in the prior-year quarter.

The company's commercial cloud revenue, which includes CRM, makes up a little less than half, 48%, of Veeva's top line. Veeva Vault, a suite of apps that focuses on data management, had a slight majority this past quarter, but that wasn't the case a year ago when commercial cloud sales had the upper hand with 52% of revenue.

Cerner is more diversified but offers far less growth

Cerner is also a big player in healthcare and tech and generates significantly more revenue than Veeva does. The company released its third-quarter results in October, and with revenue of more than $1.4 billion, Cerner makes more than Veeva does in 12 months. But where Cerner falls short is growth; revenue last quarter grew by just 6.7% from the prior-year quarter. And over the past nine months things aren't any better as sales are up only 6.3% from a year ago.

The one strength in Cerner's financials, however, is that the company has a lot of diversification in its top line. Professional services make up the bulk of Cerner's sales, and that's still only a little more than one-third of its revenue through the first nine months of 2019. The downside is that while the company has multiple segments that are growing at more than double-digits, there's not one segment that's driving Cerner's growth and that investors can rally behind the way they can around Veeva.

One benefit for income investors is that Cerner pays a dividend of around 1% per year. While it may be well below the S&P 500 average of 1.85%, it compares favorably against Veeva, which doesn't offer investors any payout.

Why Veeva is the better stock today

Over the long term, Veeva looks like it has the edge over Cerner, especially when looking at future growth. Veeva has some exciting products that are showing terrific growth, and a partnership with Salesforce is bound to lead to even more potential down the road. The company may only be scratching the surface of its potential.

The one negative for Veeva is that the stock is very expensive, trading at 76 times earnings and a price-to-book multiple of 14. Cerner, however, isn't a cheap stock, either. While its P/E multiple of 49 is lower than Veeva's, it's still a high price tag given the modest growth the company has generated.

When it comes to picking a good growth stock, it's key that a company has an exciting product that can drive home some strong results. And in Veeva's case, it has two -- CRM and Vault.

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Stocks Mentioned

Cerner Corporation Stock Quote
Cerner Corporation
CERN
Veeva Systems Inc. Stock Quote
Veeva Systems Inc.
VEEV
$207.04 (3.56%) $7.12
Salesforce, Inc. Stock Quote
Salesforce, Inc.
CRM
$185.92 (7.44%) $12.87

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

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