For any readers out there who speak French or German, I'd love to hear from you about an accurate translation for "pain in the rear." Because that's what trying to follow Swiss-based drug giant Roche Holding (NQB: RHHBY) is.
Roche is a great pharmaceutical company, but the company doesn't exactly make it easy for U.S. investors to play along at home. For instance, it's all but impossible to get a good breakdown of quarterly numbers, so what I'll have to present are largely first-half results.
Sales continue to grow strongly. First-half sales were up 17% in local currency, and this happened to be the one number where I could get a quarterly comparison -- quarterly sales for the second quarter were up about 15%. First-half pharmaceutical sales climbed 22% while diagnostics checked in with more modest 4% growth.
While reported operating profit was up 24%, a variety of items whittled that down along the way. At the bottom line, first-half net income was reported down 4%, while EPS was down an identical 4%.
So why even bother with Roche? Well, this company has a truly impressive oncology franchise, growing 36% in the first half. Avastin could be a $2 billion drug in colorectal cancer alone, and other indications such as lung and breast cancer hold pretty much the same promise. For the first half, products such as Rituxan, Herceptin, Tarceva, and Xeloda all performed well.
What's more, Roche does have a solid (though not spectacular) diagnostics business, including a large diabetes business. Though diabetes care grew only 3% in the first half, new product launches in the second half of the year could give a lift to performance.
On the bright side, Roche's Pink Sheet shares are pretty liquid, averaging more than 150,000 shares traded a day. What's more, the valuation is entirely reasonable; the stock appears to trade at a very-low-teens multiple to earnings. Of course, anyone considering these shares would have to make their peace with Roche's reluctance to readily offer up information that is as easy to interpret and analyze as figures from NYSE or Nasdaq-listed pharmaceutical stocks.
There is, however, another way. Roche owns more than 50% of NYSE-listed Genentech
While I think Roche is clearly a top-tier pharmaceutical company and appears to be a good value, it's not a stock that's going to be suitable for every investor. The flip side is that while Genentech is easier to own, it carries a biotech-like valuation and does not pay a dividend. Investors have three choices then -- go with Roche, go with Genentech, or forget the whole mess and look at a stock like Pfizer
For more on Genentech:
- Stocks That Make You Breathe Easier
- Genentech Shines On
- Genentech Hedges Its Edge
- Genentech's Vision Thing
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).