Healthcare Business

Will Amgen Earnings Shape Biotech for the Rest of 2015?

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After markets close on Tuesday, Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ: AMGN) is scheduled to announce its first-quarter results. Among biotech companies Amgen is the second-largest measured by market cap, trailing only Gilead Sciences, and Amgen’s stock price is up more than 46% in the past 12 months, somewhat better than Gilead’s nearly 44% improvement.

While Amgen has posted a year-to-date gain of about 4.2% as of Monday’s close and Gilead has posted a year-to-date gain of around 7.2%, the SPDR S&P Biotech ETF (NYSEMKT: XBI) is up 24% and the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (NASDAQ: IBB) is up 18%. Both exchange traded funds posted all-time highs last month, and biotech stocks have been on a tear for more than a year.

Our question is whether Amgen packs enough of a wallop to drive the industry to new heights in 2015. Consensus estimates for the first quarter call for earnings per share (EPS) of $2.10 on revenues of $4.91 billion. In each of the past three quarters, EPS have surprised to the high side by an average of $0.20 a share, or an average of nearly 10% a quarter.

ALSO READ: 4 Biotech and Pharma Stocks Projected to Rise 50% to 100%

Sequentially, the consensus EPS estimates for the first quarter call for $0.06 decline, but $0.13 more than in the first quarter of 2014, and the revenue estimate is nearly 9% higher. For the full year, analysts are looking for EPS to rise by $0.62, or 7%, to $9.32.

Amgen’s own forecast for 2015 calls for EPS of $9.05 to $9.40 on sales of $20.8 to $21.3 billion.

The consensus target price on the stock is nearly $177, and based on the most recent closing price of $165.97, the potential upside on the stock is 6.6%.

If Amgen beats the consensus EPS estimate by its three-quarter average, it will report EPS of around $2.30. That will kick-off a chain reaction that likely will lift second-quarter and full-year earnings estimates — ultimately the share price. Even though Amgen is not one of the 10 largest holdings of the XBI fund (it is 26th at just 1.08% of assets as of Monday’s close), it is the second largest holding in the IBB fund, comprising nearly 8% of the fund’s assets, just behind Biogen Idec, which comprises 8.11% of IBB’s assets.

If Amgen just matches or finishes just a penny or two better than expectations, the biotech bubble will not burst, but neither will it further puff up. A miss (unless it is a really big miss) would not damage the entire industry, but Amgen’s stock would certainly feel the pain. On the whole, good news for Amgen will be good — and maybe even better news for the whole sector — while just okay or bad news probably will not have lasting knock-on effects.

Amgen stock traded up about 1.3% in the late morning on Tuesday, at $168.15 in a 52-week range of $108.20 to $173.14. The consensus price target on the stock is $176.84.

ALSO READ: 5 Biotechs Not Keeping Up With Hot Sector in 2015

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