I have always been a fan of medicines mammoth AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN), and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
Share price trouble is part and parcel of investing in pharmaceuticals and the Cambridge company has been no stranger to this in recent months. It took a dive in July after trialling showed its Imfinzi drug had failed to meet its endpoints, in fact revealing that it was no better at stemming lung cancer growth than traditional chemotherapy.
As if this wasn’t problem enough, the ongoing battle with patent losses was underlined by news that revenues in the US continue to be hit heavily by exclusivity losses on its Crestor and Seroquel XR treatments. This caused global turnover at its Product Sales division to tank 11% in January-June to $9.78bn.
Newsflow has been more promising since then, however, with it announcing earlier this month that its Phase III PACIFIC trial showed that Imfinzi had illustrated an improvement in progression-free survival in patients by more than 11 months. The oncology treatment is still seen by many as a terrific revenues spinner in future years, but this is just one potential star in the company’s bubbling pipeline.
A star for patient investors
Development setbacks in the pharmaceuticals industry arguably make the likes of AstraZeneca poor choices for those with a low risk tolerance, with patchy R&D results often leading to a fortune in lost revenues and extra lab costs.
Having said that, the revenues opportunities created by rising healthcare investment across the globe are vast, and with AstraZeneca zoning in on fast-growth areas like respiratory and oncology treatments, it is putting itself in the frame for exceptional profits growth ahead.
The City expects the company to endure some earnings woe in the near term with an 11% bottom-line decline currently predicted for 2017. But the East Anglian firm is expected to get firing again from next year, a modest 1% rise being predicted at the moment.
While far from spectacular, current figures leave the company trading on a forward P/E ratio of 17.2 times, very decent value in my opinion given the potential for explosive earnings growth. And with AstraZeneca also sporting giant dividend yields of 4.3% and 4.4% for this year and next, I reckon the firm is a great buy right now.
On the right track
Immupharma (LSE: IMM) is another drugs developer I believe offers plenty of investment opportunity.
The company’s share price rose 4% on Wednesday after the release of an encouraging market update. It advised: “The first half of 2017 saw the continued progression of our lead program Lupuzor, for the treatment of lupus, through significant milestones in its pivotal Phase III trial.” All patients had passed through the six-month stage, while just over a quarter had completed the full 12 months of the study.
Accordingly Immupharma announced that it was preparing the relevant regulatory papers for the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency. It hopes to have Phase III testing on Lupuzor completed by quarter one of 2018.
City analysts are forecasting a positive outcome and they expect Immupharma to finally break into the black in 2018 with earnings of 9p per share. With the company subsequently dealing on a corresponding P/E ratio of 5.9 times, I reckon it could be considered too cheap to miss at the moment.
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Royston Wild has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended AstraZeneca. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.