Is the U.S. stock market in bubble territory? It's not easy to know, but there are still some easy answers for those on the lookout for "bubble-proof" healthcare stocks. And they can still win you some great returns.
Abbott Laboratories (ABT 1.45%), Teladoc Health (TDOC 4.88%), and CRISPR Therapeutics (CRSP 4.97%) are three stocks that neatly fit the bill. Let's dive in to see what makes this diagnostics giant, telehealth leader, and cutting-edge genetic therapy company my top picks for February.
1. Abbott Laboratories
Abbott Laboratories is a healthcare company with a presence across 160 countries and a business diversified across diagnostics, nutrition, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals segments. This Dividend Aristocrat has already increased its dividend payout for 49 years -- and the 50th year of consecutive dividend raises will make it a Dividend King in late 2021. With the company recently raising its quarterly dividend payments by 25% to $0.45 per share, Abbott Laboratories' dividend yield stands at a respectable 1.45%. The company's dividend payout ratio for the last 12 months was 55.6%, which is quite reasonable, and shows that the company retains the financial flexibility to continue increasing payouts in the coming years.
Abbott Laboratories reported organic sales growth of 10% in fiscal 2020, which is admirable for a diversified, mature healthcare company. The company expects fiscal 2021 adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) to be up 35% year over year to $5.
Abbott Laboratories' medical devices and core testing business suffered during the pandemic-triggered lockdowns. The company is expecting demand for cardiovascular and neuromodulation devices and for routine lab testing services to revert to normal in the coming months. But in the diagnostics segment, Abbott Laboratories expects its COVID-19 tests, Alinity testing devices, and rapid-testing portfolio to deliver impressive performance in 2021. The ongoing robust demand for Freestyle Libre diabetes care devices, nutrition brands, and emerging market pharmaceuticals business is also expected to drive top-line and bottom-line performance this year.
With a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio close to 23, Abbott Laboratories is not cheap. However, considering the company has a mature business diversified across products, distribution channels, geographies, payers, and innovation strategies and is growing earnings at a double-digit rate, healthcare investors are bound to find it an attractive and safe pick in 2021.
2. Teladoc Health
Teladoc Health's share price has gained over 44% so far this year and was up 144% in 2020. The company has managed to build a solid client base comprising over 40% of the Fortune 500 companies and over 50 U.S. health plans and reaches 73 million U.S. customers with its telehealth services.
With the acquisitions of InTouch Health and Livongo Health, Teladoc Health's virtual care platform now caters to all aspects of healthcare, from acute care, to mental health, chronic care, complex care, primary care, specialty care, as well as wellness and prevention. This has led to a stickier client base, a rapid gain in new members, and an overall increase in the utilization of Teladoc's services. The company's visit mix has also improved -- patients are increasingly using the Teladoc Health platform to get help in treating non-infectious or chronic diseases, which also drives more visits.
Teladoc Health's financial performance matches its clout. In the first nine months of 2020, the company's revenue jumped 79%, while total patient visits spiked by 163% on a year-over-year basis. Teladoc Health is now guiding for a more than 97% year-over-year rise in revenue and around a 158% year-over-year jump in total patient visits for fiscal 2020, ending December 2020. Teladoc Health also enjoys high revenue visibility, since more than 80% of its revenue comes from access fees (per-month, per-member subscription fees charged to employers for providing telehealth access to employees).
Teladoc Health is making strides toward becoming a profitable company. The company is guiding for adjusted EBITDA of $110 million to $113 million, a jump from $32 million in 2019. Finally, 35% year-over-year growth in fiscal 2020 bookings and a significant increase in deal size as well as cross-selling activity with Livongo Health's clients has positioned the company for a strong 2021.
With a healthcare provider network of more than 11,000 care locations, global distribution channels, and technology that is used to help patients with early disease diagnosis and better management, this company is set to continue its growth trajectory in coming years. Hence, despite trading at a lofty price-to-sales (P/S) ratio of over 47, healthcare investors can still earn handsome returns by picking this stock in February.
3. CRISPR Therapeutics
Gene therapy player CRISPR Therapeutics is leveraging CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology to develop treatments for diseases caused by a single faulty gene such as certain blood cancers and solid tumors, as well as blood disorders such as beta-thalassemia and sickle cell disease.
While most other gene-editing players such as Editas Medicine (EDIT 6.42%) and Intellia Therapeutics (NTLA 4.35%) have yet to demonstrate efficacy and safety of any of their drug candidates in human trials, CRISPR Therapeutics has already produced favorable results for gene therapy CTX001 in beta-thalassemia and sickle cell disease, and for CTX110 in blood cancer (CD19+ B-cell malignancy) in early stage human trials. In this light, the company is best positioned to enjoy the first-mover advantage in the gene-editing market, which is estimated to be worth $11.2 billion by 2025. Moreover, CRISPR Therapeutics' collaboration with a well-established biotech company, Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX 1.96%), has added to the former's funding pool as well as its credibility.
CRISPR Therapeutics' CTX110 can also make a big push in the field of allogeneic chimeric antigen receptor T-cells (CAR-T) therapies. Unlike autologous CAR-T therapies, which are currently marketed and are developed each time using patients' immune cells, allogenic CAR-T therapies are mass manufactured.
CRISPR Therapeutics had a healthy balance sheet with over $1.4 billion in cash and cash equivalents and minimal debt at the end of September 2020. The company may need many more years to become a fully commercial organization. Yet, based on the company's current annual cash burn rate of around $200 million, which needs to be adjusted upward to account for increased expenses in later-stage trials, the company has enough cash to sustain its operations for at least the next four years without raising any additional funds. Investing in any clinical-stage biotechnology company is essentially investing in the future growth potential of its research pipeline. However, unlike the average clinical-stage biotech company, CRISPR Therapeutics does not require cash infusion through equity dilution or acquiring additional debt.
With prices of genome sequencing plummeting at a breakneck speed, genomics is entering the mainstream. CRISPR Therapeutics has a definite edge over most other gene-editing players.