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Buy, Sell, or Hold Moderna Stock at an All-Time High?

By Jason Hawthorne - Dec 13, 2020 at 6:50PM

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More than just a rosy outlook for the COVID vaccine is priced into the shares.

Now that Pfizer's ( PFE 2.32% ) COVID vaccine has received emergency use authorization in the U.K., Canada, and the U.S., all eyes are on Moderna's ( MRNA 1.74% ) candidate to clear the same regulatory hurdle. Even when it does, is the stock worth buying at an all-time high?

Gloved hands holding vials labeled Coronavirus Vaccine.

Image source: Getty Images.

Money in the bank

Moderna originally received an order from the U.S. government for 100 million doses for about $1.525 billion, nowhere near the $32 to $37 price tag the company had suggested it would charge for smaller orders. In fact, the U.S. recently exercised an option for another 100 million doses, to be delivered by the second quarter of 2021.

That's great news for shareholders, but is it already priced into the stock? At least one firm thinks Moderna could end up with $13 billion in sales next year. Estimates also have the COVID vaccine bringing in up to $6 billion per year after that. 

Doing the math

The company now has agreements in place to sell almost 400 million doses for somewhere between $15 and $37 per dose. Even if the company can realize the estimated $13 billion in sales, it's hard to translate that into profits.

Previously, analysts have guessed that the profit margins on vaccines range from 10% to 40%. Discounting future profits even at the top end of that range, the current $62 billion market cap implies that the vaccine is not only priced in, but that the rest of the pipeline is worth about $19 billion on top of that. To be fair, the company has 23 drug candidates in development across a range of diseases, but those numbers contain a lot of optimism. Moderna could go on to outperform the stock market, but I'd rather buy shares in a company that isn't already baking in the best-case scenario on so many fronts.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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Stocks Mentioned

Moderna, Inc. Stock Quote
Moderna, Inc.
MRNA
$306.72 (1.74%) $5.23
Pfizer Inc. Stock Quote
Pfizer Inc.
PFE
$54.27 (2.32%) $1.23

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