Technology giant Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is a veritable monster, and its run might not be anywhere near over yet despite a valuation in excess of $700 billion.
Over the trailing 10-year period, Apple's stock is up nearly 1,800%. This run can be attributed primarily to its innovative technologies, including the top-selling iPhone and the company's growing shift into platforms such as Apple Pay. This year alone Apple has the potential to generate $60 billion in free cash flow.
But there's an entire market of stocks with the potential to grow at an even faster rate than Apple. We asked three of our healthcare contributors to identify biotech stocks they believe have the potential to outgrow Apple over the next couple years. Here's what they had to say.
Investors should remember that we're truly comparing apples and oranges here. After all, Apple traffics in consumer electronics -- an arguably discretionary industry -- while Celgene (NASDAQ:CELG) and its peers make medicines that rate must-have status.
Regardless, if you're a growth investor you're really most interested in owning companies with the best sales and profit opportunity, and Celgene has an edge over Apple here.
Celgene already racks up billions of dollars in sales annually from its multiple myeloma drugs Revlimid and Pomalyst. Thanks to ramping revenue for its cancer drug Abraxane and its psoriasis drug Otezla, Celgene's sales and profit are expected to jump by 21.7% and 30.3% next year, respectively. If it can hit these marks, then Celgene's growth will likely trounce that of Apple, where sales and earnings per share are forecast to grow by 5.6% and 7.6% in the period, respectively. However, that could be just the beginning of Celgene's growth. In January, the company issued a long-term forecast for its sales to grow from between $9 billion and $9.5 billion this year to at least $20 billion in 2020.
Of course, biotech stocks are notoriously volatile, and Celgene is much smaller than Apple, but for investors focusing on growth, I view Celgene as a high-quality alternative.
Apple may be the standard by which all other stocks are compared, but when put side-by-side with biotechnology company Medivation(NASDAQ:MDVN), the latter has the far more intriguing growth prospects.
Let's face it, Apple's nearly $200 billion in cash and cash equivalents is insurmountable, as is its free cash flow generation that could potentially top $60 billion in 2015. However, growth from Medivation and Astellas Pharma's metastatic castration-resistance prostate cancer, or mCRPC, drug Xtandi is impressive in its own right.
Xtandi was approved in 2012 as a second-line therapy for patients with mCRPC, and last September its label was expanded to a first-line indication after the drug delivered stunning results in the PREVAIL trial. The study demonstrated a 29% reduced risk of death, and the risk for radiographic progression or death was cut by 83%. More importantly, Xtandi delayed the need for mCRPC patients to use chemotherapy compared to the placebo by 17 months!
With both a first- and second-line indication in its corner and little in the way of new mCRPC therapies being introduced, Medivation's revenue is expected to nearly double between 2015 and 2018, to $1.6 billion. Furthermore, Medivation's earnings per share is projected to nearly quintuple between 2015 and 2018, to nearly $8 per share. This suggests Medivation is valued at less than 15 times its 2018 estimated EPS with a sales growth rate of roughly 25% per year.
That's cheap, even next to Apple.
I'll add one other caveat about comparisons against Apple: the Apple of today isn't the same as the Apple of a decade ago. It's more difficult to achieve high double-digit growth for a company that's already pulled in $212 billion in revenue in the past 12 months. That being said, I think biotech Ligand Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:LGND) stacks up favorably against the 2015 version of Apple when it comes to growth potential.
Ligand already has two approved drugs on the market, Promacta and Kyprolis. Novartis now has marketing rights for Promacta, while Amgen markets Kyprolis. Ligand's true gold mine, though, is its Captisol technology, which increases the solubility and stability of active pharmaceutical ingredients, thereby improving the development process of new drugs. Ligand counts over 120 fully funded partnership programs with Captisol, including partnerships with many leading pharmaceutical companies.
Wall Street analysts expect Ligand's earnings to grow by a sizzling 46% annually over the next five years thanks largely to Kyprolis and all those Captisol partnerships. That's well over three times Apple's projected growth rate during the same period. Wall Street can get it wrong at times, but my hunch is that it won't be too far off with this one.