Large Cap Biotechs Trading With Only Big Pharma P/E Ratios

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The iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology (NASDAQ: IBB) exchange traded fund (ETF) has pulled back almost 17% since the February 25 peak, in a sell-off likened to the August 2011 debacle. Trading at a median of a low 14 times consensus 2015 earnings, many of the top names are priced like defensive pharmaceutical stocks. In a new report from RBC, its analysts say that trading at some of the lowest forward multiples in years is very attractive for many investors. They also think this should be near a “floor” valuation for these top companies.

The one difference between biotech and big cap pharma stocks? Large biotech stocks can grow at a compounded annual growth rate of around 25%, versus big pharmaceuticals very limited growth rates. Here are the top names rated Outperform at RBC trading at incredibly low forward multiples.

Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ: AMGN) is one of the top blue chip names in the biotech world. Amgen has grown to be the world’s largest independent biotechnology company, has reached millions of patients around the world and is developing a pipeline of medicines with breakaway potential. The company trades at a low 15.2 times forward earnings, and investors are paid a 2% dividend. The stock is rated at Outperform at RBC, which a $125 price target. The Thomson/First Call consensus target is posted at $132.35. Amgen closed Tuesday at $126.07.

Biogen Idec Inc. (NASDAQ: BIIB) was a biotech leader that got crushed recently during the monster sell-off. The company is trading at 20 times 2015 earnings and 18 times 2016 numbers, but many on Wall Street think that the stock is not overvalued. While RBC notes that the multiple is more than some of its cheaper peers, the company’s best late-stage pipeline could have the stock up well over $400. That is especially so, if Tysabri, its popular drug that treat Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis, hits big. The RBC price target is $400, and the consensus target is $347.62. Shares closed Tuesday at $309.79.

Celgene Corp. (NASDAQ: CELG) is the maker of the cancer drug Revlimid, and it recently won U.S. approval for a pill to treat psoriatic arthritis that may challenge injections that are among the best-selling drugs on the market. The company is trading at 15 times 2015 earnings and an incredible 11 times 2016 numbers. These are multiples that have not been seen for the stock since the Affordable Care Act was first announced more than four years ago. The RBC price target is $210, and the consensus target is $193.24. Celgene closed Tuesday at $146.60.

Gilead Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD) was the focus of the price inquiry that got the biotech selling started. The company has defended its pricing and said that Sovaldi represents a major advance over existing treatments for hepatitis C. The company also has said the new therapy can avoid the long-term medical expenses related to liver failure, cancer and transplants. The RBC team calls Gilead their most compelling buy, trading at 10 times 2016 earnings, which they think will be even higher than current earnings estimates. RBC has a $110 price target, while the consensus number is $99.20. Gilead closed trading Tuesday at $73.64.

The RBC point here is very clear. Why buy slow-growth pharmaceutical stocks when you can buy high-growth large cap biotechnology stocks trading at similar multiples? It is important to remember that these super low multiples are on earnings projections for one and two years from now. As we all know, that can be a lifetime on Wall Street.