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Forget Moderna -- This Is A More Lucrative Coronavirus Stock

By Adria Cimino – Oct 31, 2020 at 7:00AM

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This company is already generating revenue from its coronavirus projects.

Moderna (MRNA 1.18%) is without a doubt one of the most talked about coronavirus stocks these days. The company was the first to launch its coronavirus vaccine candidate in human trials and is still a leader in the race to the finish line. As of Oct. 27, shares of the clinical stage biotech company had climbed 257% so far this year, rewarding those who got in on its growth story early.

But for the long-term investor, there may be more lucrative bets than Moderna. I'm thinking of one of my favorite coronavirus stocks, Abbott Laboratories (ABT 0.39%). Sure, Abbott is only up around 25% this year. And I don't expect the stock to post triple-digit gains in a matter of months like Moderna did. But investors who buy Abbott shares now are likely to see solid returns over time.

Let's have a look at why we should be optimistic about this company.

A man in his car talks to a doctor as she prepares a nasal swab for a COVID-19 test.

Image source: Getty Images.

Revenue from coronavirus tests

Most coronavirus companies aren't yet generating revenue from their coronavirus projects. That is because their products remain experimental and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn't offered them an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) or formal approval. Moderna sits in that crowded boat.

Abbott, however, is already generating revenue from its coronavirus testing products. The FDA offered the company's first test an EUA in March, and Abbott currently has EUAs for a total of seven tests. Abbott reported $881 million in revenue from COVID-19 testing in the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30, up from $615 million in the second quarter.

We can expect COVID-19 testing revenue to continue to increase for two reasons. First, the most recent quarter ended less than a month ago -- and that was too early to truly show the potential of the rapid coronavirus test that was authorized in late August. This $5, 15-minute, portable test is meant to detect an active infection quickly and easily across populations. The company planned on shipping 50 million tests per month as of October. The FDA authorized an additional test -- an antibody blood test -- this month. That should add to revenue in the current and ensuing quarters too.

Second, as the coronavirus crisis continues, the need for testing will ramp up. After a decline in new cases in the U.S. through the month of August, cases began to rise again in September, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than 8.3 million cases have been recorded in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic, and over 400,000 cases were reported in the last seven days alone.

Not only a coronavirus stock

But what I really like about Abbott is that it isn't only a coronavirus stock. Moderna and other rivals such as Inovio Pharmaceuticals (INO 7.19%), for example, have other programs in the pipeline, but they don't yet have other products on the market. They rely on the success of their coronavirus programs, which consist of their closest-to-market products, for near-term revenue. Abbott, on the other hand, generates revenue from other diagnostic tests, medical devices, nutritional supplements, and pharmaceuticals. Its diabetes care segment alone posted a 26.9% year-over-year increase in sales to $843 million in the third quarter, led by its FreeStyle Libre continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems.

In spite of Abbott's coronavirus testing gains, though, the company saw revenue slip in the earlier stages of the pandemic. That's mostly because other types of diagnostic tests were postponed as labs closed or focused on coronavirus testing, and surgical procedures were put on hold due to the crisis. Now that healthcare facilities have resumed certain procedures and labs have reopened, Abbott is recovering. Actually, it's more than recovering. In the third quarter, Abbott posted a 9.6% year-over-year increase in sales to $8.9 billion. That's after an 8.2% decline in the previous quarter.

Abbott recently offered a clue that the worst impact from the crisis is in the rearview by raising its guidance for the full year. It expects earnings per share (EPS) from continuing operations of at least $3.55, which is up from the previous forecast of $3.25.

Pick stocks for a post-coronavirus world

An investor looking for a quick near-term gain is more likely to win big or lose big with a clinical-stage biotech company. As we've seen this year with Moderna, that type of stock's performance is heavily dependent on coronavirus news. I see a big question mark when it comes to these companies' share performances over time.

Abbott, however, has a COVID-19 program that's already bringing in revenue -- and plenty of other products on the market to drive revenue growth and share performance for years to come.

Adria Cimino has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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