Sunday, June 17

Week 363 - Big Pharma

Situation: There are 11 pharmaceutical companies in the S&P 100 Index, with an average market capitalization of ~$130 Billion. Stocks issued by healthcare companies (including  hospital chains, pharmacy benefit managers, medical insurance vendors, and drugstores) are thought to be defensive “risk-off” bets, like stocks issued by utility, communication services, or consumer staples companies. But they’re not. Healthcare consumes almost 20% of GDP but it is a highly fragmented industry, rife with government interference seeking full control. Medical innovation for the entire planet has to take place in the United States because the healthcare industry is socialized elsewhere and large amounts of private capital are needed to conduct clinical trials. That innovation makes US healthcare into an ongoing research enterprise. For biotechnology companies, there is an ever-present risk of being eclipsed by another company’s research team. Stockpickers who have some appreciation for biochemistry can perhaps identify biotechnology groups that are onto a good thing. But Big Pharma companies survive by looking to buy those same startups. Can you really scope-out a “good thing” better than their scientists?

Mission: Run our Standard Spreadsheet for the 11 pharmaceutical companies in the S&P 100 Index.

Execution: see Table.

Bottom Line: This is not a game for the retail investor. All she can do is buy stock in one or two of the 11 “Big Pharma” companies, and hope that its CEO can find small biotechnology groups conducting breakthrough science, then buy at least one a year to throw money at. That’s an iffy business. Why? Because large-scale clinical studies (costing hundreds of million dollars) have to be conducted before the bet pays off. Usually it doesn’t. If you’re a stock-picker new to this industry, start by researching the old standbys that reliably pay good dividends: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Merck (MRK), Pfizer (PFE) and Eli Lilly (LLY). 

Risk Rating: 7 (where US Treasury Notes = 1, S&P 500 Index = 5, gold bullion = 10)

Full Disclosure: I dollar-average into JNJ and also own shares of ABT.

"The 2 and 8 Club" (CR) 2018 Invest Tune All rights reserved.

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