Exchange-traded funds offer a convenient way to invest in sectors or niches that interest you. If you'd like to add some international health-care stocks to your portfolio, but don't have the time or expertise to hand-pick a few, the SPDR S&P International Health Care Sector ETF (NYSEMKT:IRY) could save you a lot of trouble. Instead of trying to figure out which stocks will perform best, you can use this ETF to invest in lots of them simultaneously.
On your own, you might not have selected Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (NYSE:TEVA) or Valeant Pharmaceuticals International (NYSE:BHC) as international health-care stocks for your portfolio, but the ETF included them among its 100-plus holdings, and they helped it post market-beating results during the past five years.
The ETF's basics
ETFs often sport lower expense ratios than their mutual fund cousins. This ETF, focused on international health-care stocks, sports a relatively low expense ratio -- an annual fee -- of 0.50%. The fund is fairly small, too, so if you're thinking of buying, beware of possibly large spreads between its bid and ask prices. Consider using a limit order if you want to buy in.
A closer look at Teva
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, based in Israel, is a company you may not have heard of, but with its market cap near $42 billion, it's a major player -- especially in generic drugs, which contribute about half of its revenue. It has non-generic drugs, too, such as Copaxone, which treats multiple sclerosis. Copaxone's impending patent-protection expiration had many worried, but Teva has now secured FDA approval for a higher-dose version of it, which should preserve some of the drug's revenue. Meanwhile, Teva has been cutting costs and boasts a rich pipeline, with more than 140 product registrations awaiting FDA approval.
With its stock yielding 2.4% and the company securing plenty of regulatory wins, Teva is appealing. It recently reported good late-stage trial results for an experimental abuse-resistant pain drug, and it also received European approval for its DuoResp Spiromax, which treats asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Teva recently bought NuPathe and its FDA-approved patch for migraines, too.
There are still concerns about this international health-care stock, though. Bears worry about slowing growth and a handful of legal wranglings. For example, Teva is being investigated for its marketing practices related to Copaxone and another drug. And not all drugs end up wildly successful. Teva's oral multiple sclerosis drug laquinimod, for example, received a negative opinion from Europe's regulators. Meanwhile, Copaxone faces increasing competition from other drugs and generic versions of it. Other generic-drug makers are competing more with Teva, too.
A closer look at Valeant
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, an international health-care stock based in Canada, is also a giant, with a market cap near $44 billion. It's been in the news more than usual lately, after making a hostile bid for Allergan, maker of Botox, breast implants, eye drops, and more. Valeant has several Botox alternatives on the market, and is interested in owning Botox itself. It also sees Allergan's ophthalmology products complementing its own eye-care operations, which became substantial with its purchase of Bausch & Lomb last year. Both companies are likely to benefit from the acquisition, if it's ultimately approved.
Bears worry about slow growth at Valeant and suggest that the stock is overvalued. Bulls see much growth potential, though, and like Valeant's business model of growing more via acquisitions than by pouring big money into developing treatments on its own that may or may not pan out.
The big picture
If you're interested in adding some international health-care stocks to your portfolio, consider doing so via an ETF. A well-chosen ETF can grant you instant diversification across any industry or group of companies -- and make profiting from it that much easier.