AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV) has seen better days. After a 54% gain in 2017, the big-pharma stock lost ground last year. So far in 2019, AbbVie's share price has fallen by a double-digit percentage.
Are investors missing something about AbbVie? The company's president, Michael Severino, thinks so. He fielded questions at the Cowen Healthcare Conference on Tuesday. At the end of the session, Severino was asked to identify one or two things that investors are missing about AbbVie. Here are the two things that he listed.
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1. The overall strength of AbbVie's business
Severino quickly pointed out that AbbVie's business remains very strong overall. Obviously, the company faces challenges for Humira with biosimilars on the market in Europe. AbbVie provided disappointing guidance in its Q4 update primarily because of declining sales for its top-selling drug in the face of this competition.
However, Severino said that AbbVie remains confident that it won't see direct biosimilar competition in the U.S. until 2023. The U.S. is the biggest market for Humira, so that means much of the drug's revenue should be relatively safe. In the meantime, he thinks that investors should understand just how much growth AbbVie can deliver from its other products.
Sales continue to soar for the company's top cancer drugs, Imbruvica and Venclexta. The latter drug has a lot of potential in additional indications, especially as a first-line treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and in treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and multiple myeloma.
Severino didn't spend a lot of time talking about Orilissa. However, the drug is off to a good start with its first approved indication in managing endometriosis pain. AbbVie expects to pick up another indication for Orilissa in treating uterine fibroids. With approvals for both indications, the drug could become another blockbuster for the company.
The big story, though, is AbbVie's new immunology drugs that could soon hit the market. Risankizumab appears likely to win Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in April for treating psoriasis. Upadacitinib shouldn't be too far behind, with an anticipated approval for treating rheumatoid arthritis in the third quarter of 2019.
These two candidates are both expected to be tremendous commercial successes. Along with Imbruvica, Venclexta, and Orilissa, they're key components of AbbVie's goal to generate $35 billion in non-Humira sales by 2025. By comparison, AbbVie made $32.7 billion last year, with Humira accounting for more than 60% of the total.
2. The strength of AbbVie's earlier-stage pipeline
AbbVie's late-stage pipeline deservedly gets the most attention with the blockbuster potential for risankizumab and upadacitinib. However, Michael Severino thinks that some investors could be overlooking the strength of the company's earlier-stage pipeline.
Severino said that there will be a lot of data released over the next 12 to 18 months from earlier programs in AbbVie's pipeline. He especially pointed out the company's work in immunology and oncology. AbbVie has a promising rheumatoid arthritis drug in phase 2 clinical studies with ABBV-599, which combines a BTK inhibitor with upadacitinib. Its pipeline also includes multiple oncology candidates in phase 1 studies that target solid tumors for which Severino expects significant progress.
The company also has serious development efforts underway in neuroscience. AbbVie isn't viewed as a leader in neuroscience, although it does have one approved product in the category with Parkinson's disease drug Duodopa. That could change in the future.
AbbVie has drugs in phase 2 testing that target treatment of Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). In addition, the big drugmaker is evaluating a couple of experimental drugs in early-stage testing for treating Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injury.
Another thing you don't want to miss
Was Michael Severino right that many investors are missing out on these two strengths for AbbVie? I think so. The stock has been hammered so much that it now trades at a dirt cheap valuation. Even with the real pipeline risk that AbbVie faces, the company's legitimate growth prospects make the stock a bargain.
There's also one other thing that investors shouldn't overlook with AbbVie: Its rock-solid dividend. AbbVie's dividend now yields nearly 5.5%. With this great dividend, the company wouldn't have to generate very high earnings growth to deliver total returns that beat the market.
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