Last week I took a look at two pharma giants outside the FTSE 100 that could make investors a packet, Dechra Pharmaceuticals and Indivior.
UDG — which provides clinical, commercial, communications and packaging services to the healthcare sector — pricked the ears of growth hunters earlier this week after it announced that earnings per share are likely to grow between 18% and 21% in the current fiscal year.
Acquisition activity has proved a significant sales mover in recent times, building the company’s service capabilities and expanding its scope from just a UK-centred business into a truly global giant. And as a result UDG said that operating profits at its core Ashfield division were “significantly ahead” year-on-year during the first fiscal quarter ending December 2017.
UDG’s promising profits outlook is roughly in line with broker estimates that are suggesting a 23% earnings improvement in the 12 months to September 2018. And this monster rise is not expected to be a flash in the pain either, as in fiscal 2019 the bottom line is expected to swell by an additional 11%.
The FTSE 250 firm may be a expensive pick on paper, rocking up on a forward P/E ratio of 25.4 times. However, in my opinion this heady rating is a fair reflection of UDG’s blockbuster profits outlook.
Indeed, UDG affirmed last week that it “remains active from a corporate development perspective,” with its “strong balance sheet [leaving] it well placed to execute further strategic acquisition opportunities as they arise,” suggesting that further bolt-on buys are just around the corner. UDG’s rising global and strategic footprint leaves it well placed to benefit from growing demand for healthcare products in the years to come.
ImmuPharma’s road to earnings growth is expected to keep making sterling progress too, although the company is expected to remain mired in the red for a little while longer. Losses of 4.54p per share in 2016 are expected to have narrowed to 3.5p last year, and to improve still further to 2p in the present period.
The AIM-quoted business is finally expected to burst into the black in 2019, when analysts say earnings of 3.4p per share will be generated.
ImmuPharma’s share price has detonated since the start of September thanks to a flurry of good news surrounding its Lupuzor lupus treatment, the stock striking record peaks around 190p per share at the turn of the year. Market demand has cooled since then but, with Phase III testing of the flagship drug now complete and results due in the current quarter, glass-half-full investors may see this as a fresh opportunity to get in before the herd.
Of course drugs development is a highly risky venture and success at the lab bench is never guaranteed. However, testing of ImmuPharma’s potential blockbuster product has so far been encouraging and, with the firm having successfully raised £10m this month through a share placing, the business has extra financial firepower to bolster its position in medical areas outside lupus as well.