Healthcare Business

Why AbbVie Could Have the Most Upside Among Big Pharma Stocks

Some mergers can add a nice shot in the arm for an acquirer. After years of being focused on Humira, AbbVie Inc. (NYSE: ABBV) has now completed its acquisition of Allergan Inc. (NYSE: AGN), which brings existing sales and an additional product pipeline down the road.

Analysts on Wall Street in general have issued higher upside projections ahead of and in the wake of this merger’s completion. While SVB Leerink may have the highest analyst target price on AbbVie of $122, the independent research firm Argus has issued one of the highest price targets that has been seen in some time.

24/7 Wall St.’s top analyst calls of the day included that Argus raised its rating to Buy from Hold and offered a $115 price target. This target is handily higher than Refinitiv’s $97.00 consensus price target. While this is one of the most aggressive calls in the stock, it also would represent more upside than has been seen in the other major pharma and mega-cap biotechs.

The difference between an independent research firm like Argus and a traditional brokerage firm with underwriters is that Argus gets no investment banking fees from the companies. Investors should understand that AbbVie’s new Buy rating is a shorter term call. The firm was quick to point out that its long-term rating is Hold.

After completion of the merger with Allergan, Argus noted that the portfolio expansion includes a growing oncology franchise that is anchored by Imbruvica and Venclexta. It also noted Skyrizi and Rinvoq as two growth drivers in the immunology space. Allergan is said to add strengths in medical aesthetics, neuroscience, eye care and women’s health.

One other issue to consider is that Allergan shares and its consensus price target are both still lower than when it was named among 20 undervalued ESG stocks. That call was right before the major sell-off turned into the instant recession under COVID-19.

Argus also sees AbbVie generating substantial cash flow that supports the dividend with its 5%-plus yield. The cash flow is also said to support developing, acquiring and collaborating on new product candidates for the future. The Argus report said this:

AbbVie’s merger with Allergan (completed in May) provides the combined company with an expanded portfolio of commercial products along with additional pipeline products that should help to drive future growth. Allergan’s portfolio is anchored by Botox, which has both aesthetics and therapeutic indications (such as migraine). In addition, two recently launched immunology drugs (Skyrizi and Rinvoq) are gaining traction and market share in their respective indications. These drugs, which are posting stronger sales than we had expected, complement Humira in autoimmune indications.

There are other blockbusters in the Allergan and AbbVie mix to consider here. The Argus report further said:

The company also has a growing oncology franchise, anchored by Imbruvica and Venclexta, both of which have become blockbuster products. Imbruvica and Venclexta together generated more than $5.2 billion in sales in 2019. Venclexta is growing sales at a more than 100% annual rate (reaching $317 million in Q1-2020), reflecting approval for additional indications. In addition to the strong product portfolio, we note that the stock carries a yield of about 5.1%, which we view as very attractive during a period of market volatility and economic uncertainty.

Tuesday’s new analyst call is much stronger than most analysts give (in the 8% to 10% range) in new ratings for Dow Jones industrials or S&P 500 companies. The Argus call projects 26% upside, before even getting into the 5% dividend yield for total return investors.

AbbVie shares traded up 0.4% at $91.10 on Tuesday. Its 52-week range is $62.55 to $97.86.