Shares of Abbott Laboratories (ABT) are up by 6.3% year to date, a better-than-average performance relative to the broader market that it owes in part to its involvement in the fight against COVID-19. The healthcare company successfully developed several diagnostic tests for the coronavirus, but even though it's currently a leader in this niche, at least one analyst thinks investors should dump its stock.
Specifically, Goldman Sachs analyst Amit Hazan downgraded Abbott's stock from neutral to sell. And although he increased his price target for the stock from $79 to $84, that new target is still 10% below where Abbott is currently trading. Hazan asserts that investors "overreacted" to Abbott's opportunity within the COVID-19 testing niche, and that other companies such as Roche are in better positions in this space. Is he right? I don't think so, and here's why.
Why Abbott Laboratories is worth buying
First, it is worth noting that Abbott's ID Now COVID-19 test is one of the fastest on the market, capable of giving a positive result in as little as five minutes. There was some trouble with the test -- in mid-May, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning that it could be returning false-negative results. But Abbott seems to have cleared up this issue. The healthcare company recently issued interim data from a clinical study that appears to show that ID Now is highly reliable. Abbott has other tests on the market as well, and I expect the company will remain one of the leaders in COVID-19 testing.
Second, the company's financial position is robust. To quote CFO Robert E. Funck Jr: "[O]ver the last couple of years, we have put a heavy emphasis on strong cash flow generation and rapid debt paydown following a period of strategic shaping. This focused effort has positioned us with healthy leverage ratios and only a modest amount of debt coming due over the next few years."
Lastly, Abbott is a Dividend Aristocrat, and with 48 consecutive years of payout increases under its belt, it's just two away from joining the even more rarefied ranks of the Dividend Kings. While the company's yield of 1.47% is low, investors can be confident that Abbott is unlikely to slash or suspend its payout amid this crisis (in contrast to the 68 other S&P 500 companies that already have done so this year).
For all those reasons -- and given Abbott's strong position in the medical devices market -- I think the company is worth serious consideration, particularly for investors who are willing to ride out this crisis and hold onto its shares for a while.