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Should You Buy AbbVie in April?

By Jim Halley - Apr 6, 2021 at 7:23AM

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Shares of AbbVie have climbed more than 22% over the past 12 months, but there's still room to grow.

AbbVie (ABBV 1.28%) is one of those stocks that should be in everyone's portfolio. It's rare to find its mix of growth and value (plus a really good dividend). The pharmaceutical company has enjoyed a run of six consecutive years of double-digit earnings per share (EPS) growth, and management says they expect more of the same this year. Last year, the company posted EPS of $10.52 per share, a rise of more than 18% year over year. AbbVie expects adjusted diluted EPS for full-year 2021 of $12.32 to $12.52. It posted $45.8 billion in revenue last year, an increase of 37.7% year over year on a reported basis.

The company's share price rose 22% over the last year and has been flat over the past month. Is now the time to buy in? 

Woman and young girl shop at a pharmacy.

Image source: Getty Images

It's important to look past Humira

A lot of investors are concerned about what biosimilar competition in the U.S. will do to the sales of AbbVie's Humira, one of the world's top-selling drugs. The versatile autoimmune diseases drug has 16 approved indications worldwide and brought in $19.8 billion in sales last year. That's well beyond blockbuster status.

AbbVie is already fighting biosimilar competition to Humira internationally, and expects biosimilar competition in the U.S. by 2023. Humira's international sales were $3.7 billion last year, down 13.6% compared to 2019. In the U.S., sales were $16.1 billion, up 8.4% year over year.

Humira's sales decline is likely to be a slow slide considering its versatility, but AbbVie has prepared itself well for that inevitability. In its fourth-quarter earnings call, the company said it expects sales will fall in 2023 but should start rising again the next year with single-digit sales growth through the decade, particularly from its blood oncology portfolio, which saw revenue gains of 15.7% in the fourth quarter.

Last year, the company purchased Allergan, which -- because of its roughly $16 billion in annual revenue prior to the sale -- boosts AbbVie's cash flow for research and development. Allergan may be best known for its stable of medical aesthetics such as Botox and Juvederm, as well as eye drug Restasis, but it also gave AbbVie antipsychotic drug Vraylar, which brought in $951 million in 2020, a rise of nearly 11% compared to the $857.5 million it earned in 2019.

On top of that, AbbVie's pipeline continues to pay off. Immunology drugs Rinvoq and Skyrizi combined for $2.3 billion in sales in their first full year on the market in 2020, and the company said it expects that total to double this year. The company also expects strong growth this year from blood cancer drug Imbruvica, which had $4.3 billion in sales last year, up 12.4% from the prior year.

Management is also looking forward to the FDA's possible approval this year of Rinvoq's label expansion to include atopic dermatitis, psoriatic arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis (a type of arthritis that affects the spine). The drug is already approved for rheumatoid arthritis. Though the FDA last month extended the review by three months for Rinvoq for atopic dermatitis, the company has received other good news.

The FDA recently approved a new drug application for atogepant, a treatment for the prevention of migraines. AbbVie is also awaiting a decision on its New Drug Application (NDA) for AGN-190584 to combat age-related eye disease presbyopia. Beyond that, the company has several other drugs in phase 3 trials, most notably blood cancer drug candidate Venclexta and non small-cell lung cancer, breast, and ovarian cancer treatment candidate Veliparib.

It's a popular stock, and at first glance, its price-to-earnings ratio of 39.9 seems a tiny bit high compared to the typical pharmaceutical stock P/E ratio of 34.5. However, if you look at expected earnings, the company's forward P/E is 8.7, which makes it look like a bargain compared with the industry average of 34.

If you compare AbbVie with other pharmaceutical companies with similar annual revenue, then it really stands out as a bargain.

ABBV PE Ratio (Forward) Chart

ABBV PE Ratio (Forward) data by YCharts 

There's one thing that you shouldn't overlook

Because AbbVie was a part of Abbott Laboratories until 2013, the company is considered a Dividend Aristocrat, having raised its quarterly dividend for 49 consecutive years. Since its spinoff from Abbott, the company has raised its dividend by 225%, including a boost this year of 10.2% to $1.30 a share. That gives it a yield of 4.6%, which is nearly unbeatable for a company with AbbVie's growth record.

At its current price, it's still below its 52-week high. Considering the company's prospects for revenue this year, I'd say that April is still a good time to buy AbbVie stock.

The company's dividend allows investors to be patient, so even if sales slip in a couple of years, total returns should rise until AbbVie's expanding pipeline makes up for Humira's decline.

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