Why Gilead’s Disappointment Is Not Just an Earnings Story

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Gilead Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD) is living up to our theory that Big Biotech is now effectively the same as Big Pharma. Gilead was soft on earnings and its shares were lower. What matters here is that this is not just a story about Gilead’s earnings.

Gilead reported earnings of $1.44 per share on revenue of $5.8 billion. Analysts had called for earnings of $1.70 per share on revenue of $5.5 billion, but that revenue beat was still lower than the $5.9 billion a year earlier.

The biotech giant’s hepatitis-C treatments have continued to see a slide in revenues, dropping to $738 million from $1.5 billion a year ago. Gilead has seen more competition than when it came out with the cure for hep-C, and the pool of those with hep-C has continued to shrink now that the disease is being cured. Also worth noting was the Gilead took a large impairment charge against its multibillion-dollar acquisition of Kite Pharma. Gilead’s HIV drug sales rose to $4.1 billion from $3.4 billion a year earlier.

To make matters even worse, Gilead projected that its total 2019 product revenues would fall between $21.3 billion and $21.8 billion. The Thomson Reuters consensus was $21.8 billion.

While Gilead’s earnings disappointed investors, the biotech giant did announce that it was raising its quarterly cash dividend by 11% to $0.63 per share. That dividend will be payable on March 28, 2019, to stockholders of record at the close of business on March 15, 2019.

Gilead had $31.5 billion of cash and cash equivalents as of December 31, 2018. While that is down from the $36.7 billion at the end of 2017, Gilead generated $8.4 billion in operating cash flow, it repaid $6.3 billion of debt, paid $3.0 billion in cash dividends and it spent $2.9 billion on stock repurchases.

Gilead shareholders likely are eager for Roche’s Daniel O’Day to take over as CEO on March 1. On top of Gilead having such an uneventful 2017 and 2018, its shares traded lower in the after-hours trading session on Monday.

Even a drop in the short interest didn’t bring enough cover for an already battered stock.

Gilead shares closed flat at $70.05 on Monday, with a $90.6 billion market cap, but the shares were down 3.7% at $67.50 in Monday’s after-hours trading session. The stock has a 52-week trading range of $60.32 to $84.59, and its pre-earnings consensus analyst target price was $84.49.