In a recent article, I sang the praises of National Grid and explained why, thanks to the classically-defensive nature of its operations, it’s a great share to buy as the spectre of an economically-ruinous Brexit hovers.
In truth, though, it’s just one of the many brilliant FTSE 100 stocks that could prove to be wise buys for now and in the years ahead. Take AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN), for instance.
Shares in the pharmaceuticals giant have risen 25% since the start of 2019 as growing fears over the health of the global economy have sent investors flocking to non-cyclical stocks. And in recent days, AstraZeneca has made a charge back towards September’s record highs as concerns over Brexit in particular have spiked.
Top trading numbers
It’s obvious why drugs developers are such a hit in turbulent times like these. Citizens might choose to rein-in spending on white goods, holidays and other discretionary purchases big and small when an economic slowdown takes hold. But food, medicines, electricity and water remain must-haves, whatever seismic changes in the macroeconomic and geopolitical landscape occur, Brexit included.
And thanks to its wide range of industry-leading drugs, products that sit in fast-growing therapy areas like oncology, respiratory and cardiovascular, AstraZeneca can expect demand for its output to keep growing. It would be wrong to attribute soaring demand for the Footsie firm’s shares solely to safe haven interest, however. Buying activity has also revved up on the back of some scintillating financials unpacked on Thursday.
The turning point?
In its trading statement for the third quarter, AstraZeneca said that, thanks to an acceleration in product sales in the last few months, total revenues rose 13% in the nine months to September. Between July and September, they were up a staggering 16% at $6.13bn, a result that encouraged it to raise it full-year targets for the second quarter on the spin.
The patent expirations that crushed revenues on key drugs like its Crestor cholesterol battler haven’t yet been consigned to history, but thanks to the soaring success of new drugs like cancer treatments Lynparza and Tagrisso — which delivered sales growth of 93% and 82% respectively in the nine months from January — we seem to have reached the tipping point.
In Q3, sales of all AstraZeneca’s new products soared 62% year-on-year to £2.71bn, thanks in part to the company’s strategy of embracing emerging markets with increased vigour. And what an inspired decision this is proving to be as, with healthcare investment booming in these hot growth regions, sales of the group’s new medicines are booming 85% year-on-year.
In the context of recent updates, it’s no surprise to see City analysts predicting that the pharma giant will flip back into growth with a 4% earnings rise in 2019, and for profits to pick up the pace in 2020. Forget about AstraZeneca’s hefty valuation, a forward P/E ratio of 26.4 times. It’s worth every penny in my book.
Of course, picking the right shares and the strategy to be successful in the stock market isn't easy. But you can get ahead of the herd by reading the Motley Fool's FREE guide, “10 Steps To Making A Million In The Market”.
The Motley Fool's experts show how a seven-figure-sum stock portfolio is within the reach of many ordinary investors in this straightforward step-by-step guide.
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.