There have now been more than 43 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world, and experts are already warning of a substantial third wave of cases in many countries. It's safe to say that, about eight months into pandemic life in the U.S., economic, social, and market uncertainty is still rife.
As it sets in that the novel coronavirus isn't going anywhere anytime soon, many investors have begun factoring our new reality reality into their portfolios and picking stocks that can perform well amid a continuing global public health crisis. One stock that could be called a (relatively) safe investment is Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: REGN). The company recently made headlines when President Donald Trump was administered the company's antibody cocktail when he contracted COVID-19. Although Regeneron's stock hasn't doubled or tripled in value this year, it may still be one of the best bets for investing during the coronavirus pandemic.
It's not a volatile stock
The biggest problem with many coronavirus stocks is that they're incredibly volatile. Bad news relating to a study or a delay can lead a stock to drop by double digits. A great example of the phenomenon is Inovio Pharmaceuticals. In September, the company announced it would be putting its COVID-19 vaccine trials on hold. The stock crashed almost 33% on the day the news broke. Even though that didn't mean Inovio's vaccine was dead in the water, the sheer news of something gone awry was enough to send investors into a panic. And Inovio is still one of the top-performing coronavirus stocks this year -- rising 219% thus far (the S&P 500 is up just 5%). Another vaccine stock, Novavax, was up over 4,000% at one point this year, but has fallen 32% in the last three months.
Regeneron shares are up 55% this year -- not bad returns given the circumstances of 2020. But the key perk for risk-averse investors is that the stock isn't as unstable as its peers. One way to measure volatility is by looking at a stock's beta value. A value of one or less than one means a stock is less volatile than the markets, while a value of more than one means the opposite:
With a beta close to 0.2 today and below one for the past calendar year, Regeneron's stock doesn't appear to exactly move with the markets.
The company's robust pipeline and existing business make it a safe buy
Regeneron currently has 32 clinical trials in progress, nine of which are in stage 3. Its pipeline candidates could serve as treatments in areas including oncology, infectious disease, immunology and inflammation, as well as cardiovascular and metabolic disease. The company has many different drugs in the works, including three COVID-19 antibody treatments. That's great news for investors, who don't need to place all of their hopes on one drug candidate.
This month, the company submitted a request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve its COVID-19 antibody treatment, REGN-COV2, which President Trump took, for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). The company stated that it could have enough doses for 300,000 patients in the coming months, up from 50,000 in October. It also stated that under its agreement with the U.S. government, if the FDA grants an EUA for the antibody treatment, "the government has committed to making these doses available to the American people at no cost and would be responsible for their distribution."
There's reason to be optimistic about REGN-COV2, but there's more of a reason than that to invest in Regeneron. Today, the bulk of Regeneron's revenue comes from Eylea, the eye medication that aims to prevent vision loss. Through the first six months of 2020, Eylea generated $2.3 billion in sales, growing at a modest 2.3% year over year during the COVID-affected periods. It also accounted for more than 60% of Regeneron's total revenue during the period. Another 28% of the company's sales during the first two quarters came from collaboration revenue with Sanofi and Bayer.
With a diverse mix of revenue and many drugs in its pipeline, Regeneron is poised to continue growing with or without a successful COVID-19 treatment. That's not to say that the FDA won't end up approving any of its treatments, but it lessens the risk for investors who invest in the stock today hoping that one of their pipeline projects is successful. Other coronavirus stocks that don't sport as diversified a pipeline as Regeneron could see share prices crash upon a failure to obtain FDA approval for a drug or vaccine.
Should you buy Regeneron stock today?
What makes Regeneron an appealing coronavirus stock is that obtaining an EUA for REGN-COV2 would simply complement its business; the company isn't dependent on it. Regeneron has posted a profit in each of the past 10 quarters, and only once during that time has its profit margin fallen below 26%. Sales of $7.9 billion grew also by 17% last year.
The stock is also trading at a reasonable price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 22, which is in line with the average stock in the Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund.
Regeneron's stock isn't volatile or overvalued. Its business is profitable, there are many clinical trials active in its pipeline, and it can still allow investors to benefit from a surge in sales if one of its COVID-19 treatments obtains an approval. While there are many other coronavirus stocks to choose from, Regeneron definitely deserves to be at or near the top of the list. It's a great option for growth investors that won't put their portfolios at much risk.
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