Should I Sell Shire plc & Buy Omega Diagnostics Group plc Right Now?

Here’s my quick take on two very different companies carrying completely different risk profiles, both operating in the pharmaceutical sector — Omega Diagnostics (LSE: ODX) and Shire (LSE: SHP).  

Omega Gets Hammered 

Omega stock took a dive in early trade today, and it is still down 18% around midday, for an implied market cap of £20m. 

That’s not something you are likely to experience with Shire, which is a much bigger and diversified pharmaceutical business, and whose shares aren’t particularly expensive right now. 

In short, Shire is an investment that deserves attention, while Omega is a speculative bet that I’d rather not consider until its development stage is completed. 

Omega’s Trading Update

The group reported today its financial results for the year ended 31 March, but something else caught investors by surprise. 

Omega said that following its last update on Visitect CD4 that confirmed “completion of the internal investigation phase” it had moved “into the process of verification and validation”.

The validation stage focused on “testing the longer-term stability of in-house manufactured finished devices“, which is a key step to production on a larger scale.

Visitect is a testing kit at a development stage that is expected to be a money-spinner.

Bad News, But Its Financials Are Ok

Unfortunately, Omega has determined that “there is a stability issue with finished product that manifests after a period of five weeks of storage at room temperature“, and this matter requires further investigation.

On 1 June, Omega’s share price rose significantly in the wake of an upbeat trading update for Visitect CD4 and other allergy developments. 

As I pointed out back then, when its shares traded at around 24p, the commercialisation of Visitect CD4 may or may not make it to the market, so Omega stock carries a huge amount of risk today, even at its current level of 18.7p a share. 

That said, it ended the year with cash reserves of £1.97m (2014: £3.12m), and a £1m undrawn credit line from its bank — enough to satisfy its funding needs for some time. 

Consider that, as it said today, it incurred in “£1.5m of capitalised development costs” during the year, “bringing the cumulative spend to date to £3.1m on the Allergy iSYS project and £1.1m on the Visitect CD4 project, neither of which has been amortised so far“.

Still, I’d look for value elsewhere. 

What Do I Like About Shire? 

Firstly, it has the backing of financial analysts, which is a good thing. The average price target from brokers stands at 5,800p, for an implied upside of 11.5% from its current level. Consensus estimates have risen 30% since July 2014. 

Secondly, its management team has delivered on its promises in recent quarters, and Shire’s projected growth rate for earnings and dividends — both at about 10% annually — are truly appealing based on forward multiples of 24x and 20x earnings in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

By comparison, Omega isn’t much cheaper. 

Finally, in the light of a market cap and an enterprise value of $48bn, Shire’s balance sheet could carry more leverage to support a more aggressive acquisition strategy or to undertake shareholder-friendly activity. 

Talking of which, this investment report from our Motley Fool team includes:

  • plenty of companies that could return cash to shareholders, boosting their returns. 
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In particular, you'd do well to consider an online retailer that reported today a terrific growth rate for revenues, and which is also included in this value report.

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Alessandro Pasetti has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.