Now that multiple COVID-19 vaccine candidates that appear effective have been developed, the world has the tools it will need in order to conquer the coronavirus. But that doesn't mean the task will be easy. Ending the pandemic will require governments and healthcare providers to purchase and distribute vaccines and treatments at an unprecedented scale. And the companies that make them will likely generate excellent returns for their shareholders.
In particular, Moderna (MRNA -1.08%) and Regeneron (REGN -0.18%) should be winning investments over the next year. Moderna's coronavirus vaccine will provide the company with recurring revenues and earnings for the first time in its history. And Regeneron's monoclonal antibody cocktail treatments for COVID-19 should bolster its already-formidable bottom line. Both, however, will need critical regulatory approvals before they can take full advantage of those revenue sources. Buying shares before the companies get those approvals offers investors a chance at better returns.
Even at its current pricey valuation, Moderna has a huge amount of upside for one simple reason: It hasn't even reported a single quarter's worth of revenue from coronavirus vaccine sales yet.
It plans to manufacture up to 1 billion doses of mRNA-1273 during 2021, and based on its already-negotiated purchasing agreements, will likely sell them at prices of between $32 and $37 apiece. In the best-case scenarios, then, it could report between $32 billion and $37 billion in revenue. That's orders of magnitude higher than its trailing revenue of $246.7 million.
It's true that the market has probably priced in the impact of this expected revenue. But nobody can be completely sure of how profitable Moderna will be once sales begin. Each earnings report next year could show escalating profits, outdoing the market's favorable estimates.
More importantly, the company's long-term prospects will be cemented. Before this year, no mRNA vaccines had been approved for sale. Now, between Moderna and Pfizer there are two, which will likely lead to a surge of new interest in the technology. Management has already identified 2021 as potentially being "the most important inflection year in Moderna's history." Flush with cash from vaccine sales, it will have the capacity to pursue its most compelling pipeline projects and secure its position as a leader in mRNA medicine. Investors should take care not to miss out.
This year, Regeneron made headlines when doctors gave the company's experimental antibody cocktail to President Trump after he contracted COVID-19. On Nov. 21, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the cocktail, allowing it to be used to treat patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 who are at risk of experiencing severe cases of the disease. Though the cocktail is not authorized for use in people on oxygen or those who have been hospitalized for coronavirus, the hope is that it could prevent hospitalizations in the first place.
Regeneron plans to produce in the neighborhood of 100,000 doses in January, and has set a target for production capacity of 2 million doses per year. It previously signed a $450 million deal with the U.S. government to supply enough doses to treat about 300,000 patients. Thus, a rough estimate of the price per dose is $1,500. So if it sells additional doses at that price, the antibody cocktail could bring in $3 billion per year for Regeneron. That would be a large sum to add to its current revenues of $9.24 billion. But management hasn't publicly committed to any pricing scheme yet, so the actual figures could wind up dramatically different.
Regeneron's profit margin is already established -- and it's positive. Nonetheless, next year, all eyes will be on the efficiency of its monoclonal antibody therapy manufacturing operations. If it can bring the manufacturing expertise that it has honed with its other products to its coronavirus therapy, it might even wow investors with a lower-than-expected cost of goods sold. This would also lead to higher earnings, of course -- which would drive its share price up.