Wells Fargo is a conventional retail bank. The firm earns the lion's share of its business as a lender and deposit gatherer, a model that had been eschewed by most of the larger U.S. banks heading into the financial crisis of 2008, only to be re-embraced when the dust cleared. 2008 was a big year for Wells Fargo -- it gave the firm an opportunity to acquire Wachovia at fire sale prices, doubling in size and greatly increasing its exposure on the East Coast.
Historically, Wells Fargo has boasted better margins than its peers, the result of access to extremely cheap deposits. That remains the case today, although the firm is augmenting its strategy with more fee-based revenue streams from its wealth management and retirement services arm. That combination should continue to benefit Wells' shareholders -- especially as interest rates start their uphill climb in the next couple of years.
Biopharmaceutical maker AstraZeneca (AZN) is one of the biggest drug makers in the world, with a stable of drugs that brings in more than $33.5 billion a year in sales. The firm's patents include top-producing names like Nexium, Crestor, and Symbicort, three drugs that accounted for almost half of AstraZeneca's revenues last year.While the patent dropoff has been as much a concern for AZN as it has been for other big pharma peers, generics haven't eaten into the firm's sales as much as expected. In the last couple of years, even drugs with recent generic competition have been able to boost their market share thanks to strong marketing campaigns, easing some worries about the patent cliff that AZN has looming on the horizon. That's not to say that investors aren't worried about patent expirations -- AstraZeneca loses protection on some truly key drugs in the next few years -- but the firm's pipeline has hopes of gaining back a lot of that. It doesn't hurt that the firm has close to $7 billion in cash. That helps to offset $11 billion in debt, and gives the firm the option to make more acquisitions in the next year before AZN gets to the point where leverage is a concern. Meanwhile, the firm has been using its cash to reward shareholders to the tune of 6% a year in dividends. While AZN isn't without its concerns right now, the risks are priced in and the tailwinds aren't.
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