Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Free Article Join Over 1 Million Premium Members And Get More In-Depth Stock Guidance and Research

Forget Moderna! This Is a Stronger Coronavirus Stock

By Jim Halley - Dec 17, 2020 at 6:40AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Plenty of companies did well in 2020 despite market dynamics connected to the coronavirus pandemic. Here's one that should fare particularly well in 2021.

Pfizer, BioNTech , and Moderna ( MRNA 1.74% ) have seen their shares rise over the past few months because of their work to develop vaccines against COVID-19. Moderna, which started off the year with a share price of $19.50 has seen its stock climb more than 608% year to date to $138.

CVS Health ( CVS 0.98% ) is probably not the first company you think of when you think of a "coronavirus" stock, but it will be one in 2021, and unlike Moderna, it's long been profitable.

Hypodermic needles

Image source: Getty Images.

What's coming for CVS?

The pharmacy and health benefits provider will serve as a place where consumers can get their coronavirus vaccine, just as it currently serves those in need of COVID-19 diagnostic testing. Both initiatives will drive additional traffic to the company's stores.

In its third-quarter earnings call, Larry Merlo, the outgoing CEO and president of CVS, said that 70% of those tested for COVID-19 at its retail locations were not previously CVS customers, and 40% of those tested at business sites in its Return Ready program were not returning CVS customers. Management is confident that some of those people will come back for more typical pharmacy and healthcare-related reasons -- and that's bound to help the company.

On top of that, once the vaccine is distributed more widely and more people are protected against coronavirus infection, CVS pharmacy and retail business will pick up because more people will go back to regular doctor's visits. That translates to more prescriptions being filled and more crowded brick-and-mortar stores.

The company is riding the first wave of vaccinations

CVS Pharmacy and competitor Walgreens Boots Alliance ( WBA 4.28% ) have entered into agreements with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to be official vaccination program providers for communities and to participate in the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program.

Long-term care facilities had the option to choose which pharmacy they wanted to distribute the vaccine to workers and residents. CVS was chosen by more than 40,000 facilities, more than any other vaccine provider.

CVS said it will begin administering Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in nursing homes beginning Dec. 21, and have added that it likely will be able to use Moderna's vaccine by Dec. 28.If all goes well, Moderna's vaccine candidate will receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval after a committee meets today, Dec. 17, to discuss the vaccine's trial data. The FDA has said in other documents ahead of Thursday's panel that it was inclined to give Moderna's candidate, mRNA-1273, emergency use authorization.

CVS says it expects to vaccinate roughly 2 million people in long-term care facilities. In the case of Pfizer's or Moderna's two-shot vaccinations, the company can charge Medicare $16.94 for each initial dose and then $23.39 for the second, which would mean the company stands to make $90 million in revenue alone for its participation in the program.

The publicity the company is getting will help it too, especially once the vaccine is available to the general population at its more than 9,900 retail locations. The company said it will set up in-store vaccinations on an appointment-only model.

MRNA Chart

MRNA data by YCharts

The company was already in a strong position

While COVID-19 certainly had an adverse effect on CVS's core pharmacy business, the company has done okay this year because of its diversified revenue streams. It operates three segments -- pharmacy services, retail, and healthcare benefits. Its pharmacy services revenues were down 1% in the third quarter, but retail revenues were up 6.9% year over year and healthcare benefits revenues were up a reported 8.8% year over year.

Through nine months, the company's revenue was $199 billion, up 4% year over year. The company is on track for its 10th consecutive year of revenue growth and second straight year of net income growth. It's hard not to like CVS's trailing 12 months operating margin of 4.85%, which is above average for a pharmacy company.

Look at it as a buying opportunity

Shares in CVS, despite what is turning out to be a good year, are down nearly 7% year to date, while Moderna's stock is up more than 600%. Both companies should thrive next year, but it's easy to see that CVS stock is underpriced and due for an adjustment, with a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 11, compared to 82 for Walgreens. (Moderna, with no current net income, doesn't yet have a P/E ratio). The vaccine hoopla around Moderna, on the other hand, may have driven the stock up past a price it will be able to maintain, at least in the short term.

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.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

CVS Health Corporation Stock Quote
CVS Health Corporation
CVS
$90.87 (0.98%) $0.88
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
Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. Stock Quote
Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc.
WBA
$46.53 (4.28%) $1.91
BioNTech SE Stock Quote
BioNTech SE
BNTX
$344.06 (3.17%) $10.57

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

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning service.

Stock Advisor Returns
624%
 
S&P 500 Returns
140%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 12/06/2021.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Our Most Popular Articles

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with the Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from the Motley Fool's premium services.