Celgene Q3 shows model strength

by William P. Meyers
August 2, 2011

My nomination for most undervalued stock in the biotechnology segment: Celgene (CELG). Celgene provides a double dose of growth potential: further growth of its currently approved therapies and a rich pipeline with some therapies closing in on FDA approval and commercialization.

Consider Celgene's Q2 earnings reported last week. Revenue was $1.18 billion, up 4% sequentially from $1.13 billion, and up 38% from $852.7 million in the year-earlier quarter. GAAP Net income was $279.2 million, up 9% sequentially from $255.6 million and up 80% from $155.4 million year-earlier. GAAP EPS (earnings per share) were $0.59, up 9% sequentially from $0.54 and up 79% from $0.33 year-earlier. Non-GAAP EPS was $0.89 per share.

Most of this rapid growth was based on a single therapy, Revlimid for multiple myeloma (MM) and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). The rate of growth fluctuates, but expansion is largely international now, with Russia, China and Brazil still ahead. In addition various clinical trials have indicated Revlimid will be beneficial in other types of cancer. Revlimid is in Phase III trials for CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia), NHL (non-Hodgkin lymphoma) and prostate cancer.

Based on that alone, one might expect Celgene's stock price to be 30 to 50 times earnings per share. As I write you can buy Celgene for $58.12 per share. Even using the lower, GAAP number ($0.59 x 4 quarters = $2.36 per year), the PE ratio right now is under 25 times earnings. Non-GAAP EPS ($0.89 x 4 = $3.56) reads out at a 16.3 ratio.

But Revlimid, and other already-approved therapies Vidaza, Abraxane, and Thalomid, are just part of the story. Thalomid is ancient and has declining revenues, but Abraxane for breast cancer is ramping. Abraxane is also in clinical trials for treating lung, pancreatic, bladder, skin, and ovarian cancers. Vidaza for multiple myeloma grew revenues 23% y/y, and has a lot of room to grow with global launches.

Earlier in the pipeline Celgene displays depth-of-field. Of course most pre-clinical drugs don't make it through all the clinical phases and FDA approval; there will be some losers. Celgene's pipeline is so broad and important you could write a book about it.

In Oncology/Hematology we have pomalidomide in Phase III trials for myelofibrosis and nearing the end of Phase II for multiple myeloma. There is Amrubicin, in Phase III for small cell lung cancer. In Phase II we also have ACE-011 for CIA and ABI-008 for prostate cancer. In Phase I we have Tork Inhibitor and ABI-009, both for solid tumors. There are two additional pre-clinical ABI variants for solid tumors.

In inflammation and immunology we have Apremilast in Phase III and JNK CC-930, CC-11050 and PDA-001, as well as more Apremilast indications, in Phase II.

Beyond that Celgene lists over a dozen agents in discovery and pre-clinical phases.

Of course, what will affect Celgene's stock price soonest are the late stage candidates. The first big movers is likely to be expanding the label for Revlimid to first-line (initial) treatment of multiple myeloma. The second would be Abraxane for non-small cell lung cancer, with FDA submission in second half of 2011 and a decision likely in the first half of 2012.

In general it is a very good time to invest in biotechnology, even given the known risks. Gilead, Celgene, and Biogen Idec are cash cows that also have unrealized value in their pipelines. Small, risky biotechs aren't commanding the high premiums they used to, which is good because many of their drug candidates don't work out. With the larger biotechs when a drug candidate fails, it is disappointing and the stock can lose some momentum, but cash flow can be used to buy and develop more candidates, or buy back stock, or even (hopefully some time soon) start paying out a dividend, which is the true gold standard for value-conscious investors.

Keep diversified!

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Copyright 2011 William P. Meyers