In an interview with Time magazine for its "Person of the Year" cover story, President-elect Trump said: "I'm going to bring down drug prices. I don't like what has happened with drug prices."
With those two impulsive and vague sentences, he tanked the biotechnology sector.
The broader markets soared to new highs on Wednesday, with only one sector declining after Trump's comments: biotech, as his remarks spooked traders, who fear price controls that will constrain corporate profits. Both the Nasdaq Biotech Exchange-Traded Fund and the S&P Biotech ETF fell about 4% Wednesday, beaten down by his characteristically imperious remarks.
The incident in biotech is reminiscent of Trump's tweet Tuesday about his desire to cancel a new Air Force One because of supposed cost overruns committed by the aircraft's maker Boeing. In the wake of that one testy tweet, the giant aerospace manufacturer's stock temporarily plummeted.
However, just as Boeing is an inherently strong company and a compelling buy, so are certain undervalued biotech stocks. If history is any guide, political grandstanding about controlling drug prices will all come to nothing, especially in a Trump administration that is already shaping up to be severely anti-regulatory.
Here are three under-appreciated biotech stocks that look particularly appealing as value plays.
1. AbbVie (ABBV - Get Report)
This company a leader in developing immunology treatments. The world's largest-selling immunology drug is AbbVie's Humira, which is used to treat arthritis, chronic plaque psoriasis, Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Some analysts are concerned that AbbVie is overly reliant on Humira because the immunology drug has long accounted for a majority of the company's total sales.
To be sure, Humira was slated to lose patent expiration this month in the U.S. and in October 2018 in Europe, but the company has been filing new lawsuits and patents to defend Humira's proprietary formulation and to delay the market launch of biosimilar knock-offs. So far, those proactive efforts have paid off.
The company has nailed down about 70 fresh U.S. patents applicable to Humira formulations, manufacturing technologies and treatment methods. The new patents expire between 2022 and 2034.
Aside from Humira, AbbVie also offers Imbruvica, an oral therapy to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and Viekira Pak to treat chronic hepatitis.
AbbVie sports a trailing 12-month price-earnings ratio of 16.06, lower than the trailing P/E of the overall biotech industry, which stands at a whopping 165.8 but more importantly, is lower than most of the company's large-cap peers. Shares now trade at about $59.39; the analyst consensus is for a one-year price target of $69.95, for a gain of nearly 18%.
Amgen this year released positive data on Phase III results of Romosozumab, an injection that builds bone density in osteoporosis patients. As a leading-edge monoclonal antibody treatment, Romosozumab could be a blockbuster for Amgen.
The company also released data this year showing the efficacy of its new cholesterol drug Repatha in lowering the risk of heart attacks, strokes and death.
At a trailing P/E of 13.99, the stock is a bargain. Shares trade at about $139, and the analyst consensus one-year price target is $182.21, which would represent a gain of nearly 31%.
3. Novartis (NVS - Get Report)
Major drugs in the company's portfolio include Anafranil for manic depression and Reclast/Aclasta to treat osteoporosis. Major seller Reclast/Aclasta is approved in more than 60 countries, including Canada, the European Union and the U.S.
Switzerland-based Novartis may face falling revenue and earnings over the short term, amid lackluster sales of certain drugs and patent expirations. However, when it comes to cancer research, the drug maker is taking aggressive actions to find a cure, positioning it for growth over the long haul.
This year, Novartis opened the Novartis-Penn Center for Advanced Cellular Therapeutics, in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine. The effort began in 2012 when Novartis invested $20 million in the university's program to develop personalized cellular therapies to treat various cancers.
Novartis sports a trailing P/E of 23.65. Shares trade at about $67, and the analyst consensus one-year price target of $91.60, which would represent a gain of nearly 37%.
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