I like pharma. For companies such as Merck (MRK), you are being paid to wait for new drugs to kick in as the yields are well above average. Other companies such as Abbott Labs (ABT) and Covidien (COV) -- two terrific companies -- are breaking into pieces to bring out value. Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) could easily adopt a breaking-up-is-easy-to-do strategy like Abbott and Covidien and create a gigantic spike for patient investors now that a new CEO is in place.
But what I like best about owning pharma is growth, pure growth based on new potential blockbuster drugs that can give you multiple years of growth. That's what Gilead, Amgen and Celgene are giving you and that explains these terrific gains.
Amgen's talking about some breakthrough products that can attack gastric tumors and ovarian cancer and anti-bad cholesterol statins that can work in cases where all others have failed. It doesn't hurt that the core businesses, including its older drugs like Epogen and Enbrel, were responsible for a delicious upside earnings surprise.
Gilead's got a terrific potential hepatitis C franchise that could be worth billions and billions of dollars starting in 2014. The company paid a fortune for Pharmasset
, which has what many people believe is the best compound for hep C, and it didn't destroy earnings, In fact, they were much better than expected.
Celgene? What can I say? People prematurely wrote off this company when it had a problem with a European application for extended use of Revlimid, its breakthrough anti-multiple myeloma drug. But I am confident that the franchise remains intact and the number of initiatives this company has in the pipeline could lead to multiple years of earnings upside. Given the terrific profits just reported -- again, much better than expected -- Celgene remains an inexpensive stock with multiple years of growth ahead of it.
You know I like dividends. You know I don't like expensive stocks that could run into real air pockets if anything, any one drug prospect, goes awry. But these three companies have proven themselves time and again, and while they certainly aren't for the squeamish, only they, and not Merck or Pfizer or even Abbott Labs, can deliver the kind of long-term growth that will produce capital gains for years and years to come. These companies are the risk takers. They are not afraid to make mistakes. They innovate relentlessly. They spend fortunes developing new drugs and they remind me of the old-line pharma companies we have right now in their formative, pre-patent-cliff years, where all the really big money was made.
Action Alerts PLUS, which Cramer co-manages as a charitable trust, is long ABT.