Since the beginning of 1999, the pharmaceutical index has performed admirably. It's up 7% -- that's not fabulous by any means, but it's a heck of a lot better than the S&P 500, which is down 6.5% over the past three years.
One drug stock, however, has lagged behind the general trend: Pharmacia (PHA). It's down 3% since Jan. 1, 1999, which is still better than the S&P 500, but disappointing compared with Pharmacia's rivals.
But the tide may finally be turning for Pharmacia. The company has no patent expiration risk through 2006, unlike many of its peers, and has a strong new-product pipeline. Pharmacia is also on the verge of becoming purely a drug company again, as it prepares to spin off the controversial agricultural business it inherited after its merger with Monsanto (MON) in early 2000. Finally, the stock is relatively cheap, particularly when you consider that its earnings growth rate could be at least 15% over the next three years; that is well above the drug sector average growth rate of about 12%.Pharmacia's product lineup probably doesn't include another home run (like its $3 billion arthritis and pain agent Celebrex, which came with its Monsanto merger), but the company does have a number of solid doubles and triples waiting patiently in the dugout. For example, Pharmacia's very strong oncology portfolio should exceed $1 billion in sales this year. Its leading drug, Camptosar, is used mainly for colorectal cancer, but the company is optimistic about its other potential applications; pancreatic cancer is one possible indication. Camptosar prescriptions are growing at a high-teens rate, and expectations for future sales will likely be exceeded.
Xalatan, at $800 million in sales per year, is the leading treatment globally for glaucoma. Xalatan is also growing at a high-teens rate and has the potential to reach $1 billion in sales. Detrol, the leading treatment for overactive bladder, is growing well into the double digits and has already passed the $500 million sales mark this year, driven by a new once-a-day version of the drug.
|Recent Stock Price:||$44.40|
|Market Capitalization:||$57.2 billion|
|Float:||1.28 billion shares|
|Short Interest Ratio:||2.28|
|Source: Yahoo! Finance|
Just Say No to (Anything but) DrugsInvestors have penalized Pharmacia's valuation because of the sizable and fairly controversial agricultural business (including genetically modified seeds and chemical herbicides) it picked up as a result of the Monsanto merger; roughly $6 in Pharmacia's current share price is driven by Monsanto's nondrug business. Not for long, though. In the fourth quarter of 2000, Pharmacia did an
|*Thomson Financial/First Call estimates.
Source: Company reports
Pharmacia's strategic outlook after it spins off Monsanto also intrigues me. Lately, the pharmaceutical industry has embraced the notion that bigger is better; the Pfizer (PFE - Get Report)-Warner-Lambert deal is a case in point. Pharmacia may make a good partner for another company that's looking to beef up its research and development muscle and its product pipeline. Pharmacia's CEO Fred Hassan hails from American Home Products (AHP - Get Report). Could there be a deal with AHP in Pharmacia's future? Alternately, Pfizer may be interested because it shares co-marketing rights with Pharmacia on Celebrex. Either way, after Monsanto is cut loose, Pharmacia becomes a much more attractive target. Finally, you can't ignore that this stock is a good deal at $44. The company's growth rate of 15% is one of the highest in the group, yet it trades right in line with the drug company average