Jefferies Has Top Health Care Stocks to Buy as Sector Explodes

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During 2015 and last year as the brutal presidential campaign played out, the health care sector, and especially the drugmakers, became one of the favorite whipping boys for the candidates, who cited high drug prices as a major issue. While lower pricing is still wanted by all, the harsh rhetoric has died down some, and the sector took off with the rest of the market and now sits at all-time highs as well.

A new research note from Jared Holz, the outstanding analyst at Jefferies, notes that with the sector at current highs headed into earnings, momentum has been somewhat out of control, and there is much analysts have a hard time wrapping their arms around on the trading desk. Three companies remain favorites, and all are rated Buy at Jefferies. Another stock that is well liked, but not covered, may be a potential takeover candidate.

Becton Dickinson

This top health care company is a solid and safe play now. Becton Dickinson and Co. (NYSE: BDX) is a diversified global medical technology company that produces medical devices, instrument systems and reagents for the health care, life sciences research, clinical, diagnostic and pharmaceutical markets.

The company has grown into a large medical conglomerate with over 49,000 employees covering nearly 50 countries worldwide. The CareFusion acquisition significantly expanded the company’s medical technology footprint in infusion and medication management.

Shareholders receive a 1.38% dividend. The Jefferies price target for the shares is $243, and the Wall Street consensus target is $219.83. The shares closed Tuesday at $210.97.

Clovis Oncology

This top biotech recently came in with numbers that surprised Wall Street, and while they don’t cover the company, the Jefferies team feel it could be a takeover candidate. Clovis Oncology Inc. (NASDAQ: CLVS) is an oncology-focused biotechnology company that launched its first drug, Rubraca, in late 2016. The drug is indicated for treatment of germline and somatic BRCA-induced ovarian cancer after failing two prior lines of chemotherapy.

The company fully owns rights to Rubraca and is investigating expansion into a broader ovarian cancer market, as well as investigating additional tumor indications. The Merrill Lynch team raised its price target on the shares as they have higher confidence in Rubraca’s potential in BRCA-mutated cancers. A damaged gene in either location can lead to increased risk of cancer, particularly breast or ovarian in women. A BRCA mutation is a mutation in either of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are tumor suppressor genes.

The posted consensus price objective was last seen at $93.73, and the stock ended trading on Tuesday at $75.68 a share.

Quintiles IMS

This company is somewhat off-the-radar but has had an outstanding 2017, and the stock looks poised to move higher. Quintiles IMS Holdings Inc. (NYSE: Q) is a leading global provider of information, technology and services to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

The company is the leading source of drug utilization data in the world and offers a growing suite of technology services with the aim of running more efficient and effective development and commercial operations. Quintiles IMS has more 50,000 employees and serves over 5,000 customers in over 100 countries worldwide.

The company’s second-quarter sales grew a massive 69% year over year, which was above the Wall Street estimates. Adjusted earnings per share was ahead by $0.04, driven chiefly by share buybacks. The company provided third-quarter guidance below expectations, so many feel the implied fourth-quarter ramp is quite steep.

Jefferies has a $94 price objective, which compares with the consensus target price of $100.50. The stock closed trading on Tuesday at $102.33.

Zimmer Biomet

This was a huge 2015 merger that Wall Street has been positive on from the get-go. Zimmer Biomet Holdings Inc. (NYSE: ZBH) is a global leader in musculoskeletal health care. The company designs, manufactures and markets orthopaedic reconstructive products; sports medicine, biologics, extremities and trauma products; spine, bone healing, cranio maxillofacial and thoracic products; dental implants; and related surgical products.

The stock currently trades at a huge forward price to earnings discount to its large-cap medtech peers. While there is still risk of future supply-related hiccups as Zimmer Biomet completes its root cause/action plans and transitions into its action implementation for various form 483 observations, many believe the valuation, at just under 14 times estimated 2018 earnings, and near 10-year lows on a P/E basis, is compelling enough to assume risk.

Investors are paid a small 0.8% dividend. The $143 Jefferies price target is greater than the consensus target of $135.04. The shares closed trading on Tuesday at $121.21.

These are four top companies for more aggressive investors looking for health care exposure to consider. It may make sense to buy partial positions now and see how the third-quarter results turn out.