This is arguably the most difficult time to be an income investor in decades. For one, the S&P 500 is yielding less than 1.3%, which is very close to its all-time low of 1.1% set back in 2000. Along with this, last month's annual inflation rate of 6.2% set a 31-year high. Anyone sitting on cash and waiting for a market correction is like watching your money go down the drain as your capital loses purchasing power. So, what is an income investor to do?
AbbVie consistently beats expectations
When AbbVie reported its third-quarter earnings on Oct. 29, the company managed to top both analysts' revenue and non-GAAP (adjusted) earnings per share (EPS) estimates for the 11th straight quarter. The company recorded $14.34 billion in revenue during the third quarter, which equates to an 11.3% growth rate compared to the year-ago period. This is what led AbbVie to surpass analysts' forecasts of $14.3 billion in revenue by 0.3% in the third quarter.
AbbVie's largest segment, the immunology segment led by Humira, followed by Skyrizi and Rinvoq, contributed to 60.5% of its total revenue growth in the third quarter. Humira's revenue edged 5.6% higher year over year to $5.43 billion in the third quarter, which contributed to nearly one-third (32.2%) of AbbVie's third-quarter immunology segment revenue growth.
The most encouraging takeaway of AbbVie's third-quarter undoubtedly was that its next-gen immunology drugs Skyrizi and Rinvoq saw their combined revenue surge 92.2% to $1.25 billion. This made up the remaining 67.8% of growth within the immunology segment. And ahead of Humira's 2023 U.S. patent expiration, Skyrizi and Rinvoq's overall share of the immunology segment's revenue grew from 11.2% to 18.7% in the third quarter.
Overall, AbbVie looks positioned to sharply rebound from Humira's pending U.S. loss of exclusivity via Skyrizi, Rinvoq, and other drugs such as anti-psychotic Vraylar, which grew its third-quarter revenue 29% year over year to $461 million. That's why analysts are forecasting AbbVie will deliver 4.5% annual adjusted EPS growth over the next five years despite Humira's patent cliff. AbbVie reported $3.33 in adjusted EPS during the third quarter, which represents a 17.7% growth rate over the year-ago period. This also beat the analyst consensus of $3.22 in adjusted EPS for the third quarter by 3.4%.
AbbVie's strong performance in the third quarter and year to date prompted the company to slightly raise its adjusted EPS midpoint guidance for this year from $12.57 to $12.65. The updated midpoint guidance for this year would work out to a 19.8% year-over-year growth rate in adjusted EPS compared to the $10.56 reported last year. This encouraging outlook helps to explain why the company's board of directors announced a robust 8.5% increase in its quarterly dividend beginning with the dividend paid next February.
A fair and improving balance sheet
AbbVie is a growing business, which is important for dividend growth investors. But does the company have a healthy enough balance sheet to afford its dividend during a temporary decline in profitability? Let's turn to the interest coverage ratio to address this question, which measures how easily a company can meet its interest expense obligation with its earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT).
Its interest coverage ratio soared from four in the first nine months of last year ($6.57 billion in EBIT/$1.66 billion in interest costs) to 5.8 through the first nine months of this year ($10.53 billion in EBIT/$1.81 billion in interest expenses). This demonstrates that the company is continuing to head in the right direction with incorporating Allergan's assets into its business following the completion of the acquisition in May 2020.
An attractively priced blue chip
Even though AbbVie's fundamentals appear solid, the stock is being heavily discounted by the market. Primarily driven by concerns over Humira's U.S. patent cliff that I believe are overblown based on Skyrizi and Rinvoq's tremendous growth trajectories.
In fact, AbbVie's forward P/E ratio of 8.4 at its current price of $116 a share is well below the general drug manufacturer average forward P/E ratio of 11.3. This gives income investors a chance to scoop up shares of AbbVie and its well-covered 4.5% yield before the market warms up to the stock and awards it a higher valuation multiple.