In the first 10 years of Moderna's (NASDAQ:MRNA) existence, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology company didn't launch a single product onto the market. That changed last December when its coronavirus vaccine, mRNA-1273, earned emergency use authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The regulatory nod that mRNA-1273 received helps give more credence to Moderna's master plan. The company is looking to develop a raft of mRNA vaccines for infectious diseases, and until a couple of months ago, no vaccine of the mRNA variety had ever obtained FDA approval (or EUA).
Moderna may look like an attractive investment because of these factors, but the company remains a risky long-term bet. Aside from mRNA-1273, none of its pipeline candidates has yet made it to a phase 3 clinical trial; such experimental vaccines can run into negative clinical trial results, regulatory obstacles, competition from other biotechs, and other roadblocks.
While there may be a windfall coming Moderna's way thanks to mRNA-1273, there are other companies involved with coronavirus vaccines or testing that have superior track records of consistent revenue and earnings beats, and still have long runways for growth. One such company is Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT). Here's why the medical-devices giant is a stock worth buying.
Abbott Laboratories' COVID-19 efforts
At the height of the pandemic, curbing the spread of COVID-19 required quick and accurate diagnostics testing kits. Abbott Laboratories devised and marketed several testing options to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the disease. Perhaps the most famous of these is its ID NOW COVID-19 diagnostic test, a portable molecular-testing kit that can deliver results in as little as five minutes.
Abbott's coronavirus-related work has clearly had a significant impact on its financial results. For its fourth quarter, which ended on Dec. 31, 2020 -- during which it delivered more than 300 million COVID-19 tests -- the company reported $10.7 billion in sales, a 28.7% year-over-year increase. Abbott's COVID-19 diagnostic tests generated $2.4 billion in sales.
For its full fiscal year 2020, the company reported $34.6 billion in sales, an 8.5% increase compared to fiscal year 2019. Abbott's bottom line was equally impressive, with its adjusted earnings per share (EPS) for the fourth quarter coming in at $1.45, for 52.6% growth compared to the year-ago period. Its full-year adjusted EPS was $3.65, much better than the $3.24 it recorded during its previous fiscal year.
It's worth noting that many medical-device manufacturers encountered serious headwinds last year, as the volume of elective surgeries dropped because of the pandemic. Despite these obstacles, Abbott Laboratories found a way to deliver excellent financial results.
More growth to come
Abbott isn't done benefiting from its coronavirus-related efforts. The company expects adjusted EPS of at least $5.00 for the fiscal year 2021. According to CEO Robert Ford, COVID-19 testing will continue to be a major growth driver.
Ford expects demand to remain high despite the rollout of vaccines. The market research and consulting company, Grand View Research, estimates that this segment will expand at a compound annual growth rate of 3.1% between 2021 and 2027, and Abbott Laboratories is well-positioned to profit.
There are other opportunities available to the company. First, there is its MitraClip system, one of the leading devices on the market for the treatment of mitral regurgitation. This condition affects a patient's mitral valve, leading to blood-flow problems.
If severe enough and left untreated, this disorder can lead to other serious health problems. Abbott's MitraClip allows physicians to treat the condition in a non-invasive way -- that is, without the need for open surgery. It's been demonstrated in clinical trials to improve health outcomes while reducing hospitalizations.
Last year, the FDA approved the fourth-generation version of this device, MitraClip G4. And more recently, Medicare expanded reimbursement coverage of the system, which will significantly increase the market for the device in the country. Meanwhile, Abbott is already working on the next version of the MitraClip system.
Second, there is Abbott's diabetes care segment. The company's FreeStyle Libre is a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system that allows patients with diabetes to keep track of their blood glucose levels. During Abbott's fiscal year 2020, the diabetes care segment reported sales of $3.3 billion, for a 29.4% year-over-year increase.
This impressive growth was largely due to the FreeStyle Libre franchise. The CGM market will keep expanding at a good clip, and Abbott Laboratories is likely to remain one of the leaders. These opportunities and others will help the company deliver consistently strong financial results.
A juicy dividend too
There's another major reason why Abbott Laboratories is a more lucrative stock than Moderna: The medical-devices company is a Dividend Aristocrat, having increased its dividend for 49 years in a row; it currently offers a yield of 1.23%. Although that's lower than the average S&P 500 yield of 1.57%, it's higher than Moderna, which offers no dividends. Abbott also boasts a cash payout ratio of 54.22%, giving the healthcare giant plenty of room for future dividend increases. In short, Abbott Laboratories is also a decent option for income-oriented investors.
A better bet than Moderna
While Moderna has outperformed Abbott Laboratories in the past year and will likely continue to deliver strong growth in the next year or two, life after its coronavirus vaccine is less certain at the moment. By contrast, Abbott has a long track record of success, provides excellent long-term growth prospects, and offers a dividend to its shareholders. Between these two companies, Abbott Laboratories looks like the more lucrative option for long-term investors.