Shares of the Illinois-based drugmaker AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV) have slumped in a big way of late, perhaps reflecting the dampened expectations for the company's new hepatitis C therapy Viekira Pak. In fact, shares have now fallen by over 13% from their 52-week high following the high-volume sell-off that accompanied the company's fourth-quarter earnings release, as shown by this chart:
Weaker than expected projections for Viekira Pak going forward appear to have accelerated the stock's decline. Prior to management's recent update, the Street expected sales to top $3 billion in 2015. But the drug's relatively slow uptake compared to other next-generation hep C drugs puts it on track for something closer to $2.5 billion. And the potential launch of Merck's rival therapy in 2016 could cut deeply into sales next year.
Putting all this doom and gloom aside for the moment, it's important to remember AbbVie has richly rewarded its shareholders, through the market-trouncing performance of its stock, billions in share buybacks, and multiple increases to the dividend, since the company was spun off from Abbott Laboratories in January 2013.
With this in mind, let's consider if this dip represents a compelling buying opportunity, or if it truly is time to hit the exits on this top healthcare stock.
AbbVie offers far more than hep C drugs
I think the negative sentiment surrounding AbbVie on account of Viekira Pak not being a true rival to Gilead Sciences' Harvoni is shortsighted in many ways.
For example, based on the promising outlook for key products like Humira for a host of inflammatory diseases and Duodopa for symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease, AbbVie management is forecasting an astonishing 28% to 34% increase in earnings per share this year. Outside of Gilead and Celgene, you would be hard-pressed to find another large-cap biopharma growing as quickly.
Also, unlike its rapidly growing peers, AbbVie offers a dividend. The drugmaker has one of the highest yields in the healthcare sector (now topping 3.2%), and its rising cash flow suggests this high yield should be stable for the long term. The same can't be said for many other high yielders in healthcare that are facing steep declines in revenue from the ravages of the patent cliff.
What truly sets AbbVie apart from many of its biopharma brethren, though, is its often-overlooked pipeline of more than 40 ongoing clinical trials and multiple potential blockbusters.
AbbVie and partner Biogen Idec, for instance, last year successfully completed late-stage trials for the monoclonal antibody daclizumab as a potential treatment for the relapsing remitting form of multiple sclerosis, meaning a regulatory filing should be close at hand. This single drug is expected to generate upward of $700 million in revenue by 2020, before eventually reaching blockbuster status.
Then there's the company's host of high-value experimental oncology compounds in late-stage development, as shown below. If ABT-199 can gain a regulatory approval as a treatment for relapsed chronic lymphocytic leukemia, its sales should exceed $2 billion in short order, according to Goldman Sachs.
AbbVie's pipeline also holds several additional gems that simply haven't garnered the attention they deserve in light of Viekira's commercial launch and the upcoming patent expiration for Humira.
Is AbbVie a good long-term buy?
After this recent sell-off, AbbVie's shares are now trading at a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 13. That dropoff is way overdone in my book, especially for a Dividend Aristocrat like AbbVie.
With multiple business and clinical catalysts expected over the year, I have a hard time believing this stock will remain at this level much longer. So I'd say this is indeed a good time to pick up some shares.