Let me introduce you to a company whose stock price has quintupled over the past five years: Australia-based CSL. This could be just the beginning of great things to come.
Flu, venom, and plasma, oh my!
CSL offers products on a grand scale. Its influenza vaccine Afluria competes with offerings from giants like Sanofi-Aventis
CSL also provides products on a small scale. It recently received Food and Drug Administration approval to market RiaSTAP as an orphan drug treatment for a genetic bleeding disorder that affects 150 to 300 Americans. And if you ever encounter a funnel web spider, are bitten by a tiger snake, or are stung by a box jellyfish, CSL has the anti-venom for you. Of course, you'd have to go to Australia to get it, because that's where many of the critters are, and it's where CSL sells the anti-venom.
Finally, its Pennsylvania-based CSL Behring subsidiary produces plasma protein therapies. Among their many uses, plasma-derived products coagulate blood to combat hemophilia, treat immune system deficiencies, and provide critical-care assistance in healing wounds and treating severe burns. This subsidiary accounted for approximately 75% of CSL's $3.4 billion in revenue in fiscal 2008.
Perhaps because of its "Down Under" location -- shares are only traded in Australia -- CSL is a medical company that touches many lives worldwide without the fanfare attached to big pharma or biotech companies.
The company does business in 27 countries, has more than 9,000 employees worldwide, and has major facilities in the U.S. and three European countries. Sales in North America account for roughly one-third of revenue, while Europe also provides roughly one-third of revenue.
But the company could be emerging into the limelight. Last August, CSL made a $3.1 billion cash offer for Talecris Biotherapeutics, a major provider of plasma-derived treatments. The deal is currently under Federal Trade Commission review, but when it is completed -- expected by this summer -- CSL will be the world's second-largest provider of blood plasma products behind Baxter International
As noted above, CSL's increasingly diverse portfolio of medications produced $3.4 billion in revenue for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2008, up 26% from the previous year. Net profit of $671 million reflected a 46% gain over the previous year. Using the original Australian dollar results, net income grew 30%. The company expects between 15% and 21% net income growth this year, measured in Australian dollars.
The company expects to hear from the FDA this quarter about its effort to treat a genetic disorder called hereditary angioedema, or HAE. The company estimates that 6,000 to 10,000 Americans have HAE, which causes swelling in the hands, feet, abdomen, and larynx. CSL wants the FDA to approve a drug that would treat acute attacks of HAE that can cause severe gastrointestinal problems, asphyxiation, and even death. CSL already sells the drugs in several foreign markets.
Although CSL is shepherding this drug itself, it has also benefited from collaborations in the past, and it continues to do so in the present. For instance, in early-stage clinical testing are products licensed to Merck, Wyeth
U.S. investors can invest in the company by contacting an Australian broker listed on the Australian Stock Exchange or a U.S. broker offering cross-border trading services. CSL has "no plans" to offer American Depositary Receipts, a company spokeswoman says.
However, as the world gets smaller and CSL gets bigger, U.S. investors should give it a closer look, especially as an alternative to "mega-pharma" represented by deals such as Pfizer's
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Robert Steyer doesn't own shares of any companies cited in this article. Pfizer is a recommendation of both Inside Value and Income Investor, and the Fool owns shares. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy, outlined here.