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This Under-the-Radar Stock Is a Better Way to Bet on Coronavirus Vaccines

By Prosper Junior Bakiny – Jul 1, 2020 at 6:15AM

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Emergent BioSolutions has become the go-to manufacturing partner for companies looking to develop vaccines for the coronavirus.

More than a dozen companies are now in some way involved in the hunt for a vaccine for COVID-19. These include household names, like Merck, and less famous ones, like Dynavax. Considering how crowded this race is, it is difficult to know which company will end up benefiting the most from its efforts to end the ongoing pandemic. Since most of these vaccine candidates will never make it to the market, some of the companies involved in this hunt won't get much in return for the investment they are currently allocating to these efforts.

One way to avoid incurring significant losses when investing in companies that are currently working on vaccines is to consider the company's prospects outside of its COVID-19 programs. Using that lens, there's one company in particular that looks especially worth considering: Emergent BioSolutions (EBS -1.75%)

Emergent's manufacturing deals 

Emergent specializes in manufacturing pharmaceutical products for outbreaks and infectious diseases. Thanks to this expertise, Emergent has managed to land manufacturing deals with several companies that are currently developing vaccines for COVID-19. Two of these partnerships in particular are worth mentioning.

First, Emergent penned a $135 million agreement to manufacture Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ -0.06%) vaccine for COVID-19.

Doctor holding up glass vial marked "COVID-19 Vaccine Coronavirus."

Image source: Getty Images.

Johnson & Johnson plans to start clinical trials for its investigational vaccine in the second half of July. The pharma giant seems confident that it will have its vaccine ready for an emergency use authorization in early 2021.When this deal was first announced, Emergent and Johnson & Johnson said they were already negotiating another long-term manufacturing agreement, which would start in 2021.

Second, Emergent penned a deal valued at $87 million to manufacture AstraZeneca's (AZN -0.07%) vaccine for COVID-19. AstraZeneca is currently collaborating with the University of Oxford on its vaccine.

Emergent also received a task order from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of the Trump Administration's Operation Warp Speed Initiative, whose mission is to accelerate the development of a vaccine for COVID-19. The task order is valued at about $628 million. As part of the agreement, Emergent will manufacture some of the government-sponsored COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

Emergent's recent manufacturing deals should help the company generate healthy revenue in the coming quarters. 

Looking forward 

Beyond its COVID-19 manufacturing deals, Emergent has other products it can rely on to generate revenue. Its anthrax vaccine generated $51.9 million in sales during the first quarter of 2020. Emergent also has a 10-year contract valued at about $2 billion with the HHS for the continued supply of its smallpox vaccine, ACAM2000. The company signed this contract in September 2019. 

It is worth noting that Emergent recently lost a patent lawsuit against Teva Pharmaceuticals (TEVA -0.46%) related to its treatment for opioid overdose, Narcan.Narcan is one of the company's biggest cash cows. During the first quarter, this product generated $72.2 million of the company's $148.2 million in total sales. Although Emergent plans to appeal the decision, it's impossible to know at this point how it will turn out, and the company could face generic competition for Narcan soon.

Emergent is also currently unprofitable. The company recorded a net loss of $12.5 million during the first quarter, although that was a vast improvement from the $26 million net loss it recorded a year ago.

For the full fiscal year 2020, Emergent expects its total revenue to be between $1.2 billion and $1.3 billion and its adjusted (non-GAAP) net income to come in between $160 million and $210 million.

The loss of the patent case complicates matters for Emergent. But between its COVID-19 manufacturing deals and its other programs, the company's stock price -- which is up by 39.5% year to date -- and revenue will likely continue climbing. In short, I think this biotech stock is worth consideration. 

Prosper Junior Bakiny has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Emergent BioSolutions. The Motley Fool recommends Johnson & Johnson. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Stocks Mentioned

Johnson & Johnson Stock Quote
Johnson & Johnson
$178.78 (-0.06%) $0.10
AstraZeneca Plc Stock Quote
AstraZeneca Plc
$68.42 (-0.07%) $0.05
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Stock Quote
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries
$8.62 (-0.46%) $0.04
Emergent BioSolutions Stock Quote
Emergent BioSolutions
$11.79 (-1.75%) $0.21
Merck & Stock Quote
Merck &
$110.01 (-0.03%) $0.03
Dynavax Technologies Stock Quote
Dynavax Technologies
$12.30 (-3.30%) $0.42

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

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