Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY) Says FDA Granted Priority Review For Potential New Indication For Its Verzenio As Initial Treatment Of Advanced Breast Cancer

Pfizer spun off its animal health business in 2013 to create

Zoetis, which has been wildly successful with investors. Zoetis sells for twice Lilly's valuation -- 7 times sales. That company has higher growth than Elanco has, but it's reasonable to assume Lilly could get somewhere between $10 billion and $20 billion.

Not only could a sale of the animal health business give Lilly a bundle of cash to work with, it would give an immediate boost to the company's growth rate. The company went through some rough years between 2011 and 2014 when patent expirations resulted in some quarters of declining revenue. During that time, the animal health business provided some stability and much-needed top-line growth.

But now that the worst is over for loss of exclusivity, and growth from newly introduced drugs is more than making up for further losses from the established portfolio, animal health is more of a drag on results than a help. In 2017, Lilly's revenue grew 7.8%, but if the animal health results are subtracted out, that increase would have come to 9.5%. That extra point and three quarters of growth could make a big difference to the company's valuation. Profit growth would be higher, too, since the animal health segment has lower margins than the human health segments. 

A big dividend raise signals confidence

Nothing speaks more loudly about management confidence in the future than when a yield-oriented stock raises its dividend, and on December 11, Lilly raised its dividend by 8%. On a percentage basis, that is the company's largest dividend raise in 15 years.

The balance sheet is in great shape -- so much so that one analyst in last month's call questioned why Lilly would use $2 billion of its cash windfall to reduce debt when it could invest it in the business. The $3.9 billion of operating cash flow the company generated in the first three quarters of 2017 was over twice what was needed to cover the dividend.

Companies hate to cut dividends, so when Lilly made such a big hike in its payout, it was a statement that the board expects there will be nice growth ahead. Between sales growth of new drugs and the $500 million cost-cutting initiative it announced last year, the company should have plenty of cash to support its generous 3% dividend yield and to fund growth, even without the decline of 350 basis points the company expects to see in its tax rate. 

Risk and opportunity

(NYSE: NVO) will shortly be introducing a diabetes treatment that could be superior to Lilly's Trulicity, the blockbuster that is supplying a good chunk of the company's drug portfolio growth. However, unlike many of its peers, Lilly is not dependent on one big drug for its profits; its biggest seller, Humalog, accounted for only 13% of sales in 2017. That lessens the risk of a sudden competitive surprise, but some attrition will be a fact of life." data-reactid="45">Eli Lilly is not without its risks. The company still has older drugs in its portfolio that are exposed to generic threats -- notably Cialis. Also,

Novo Nordisk (NYSE: NVO) will shortly be introducing a diabetes treatment that could be superior to Lilly's Trulicity, the blockbuster that is supplying a good chunk of the company's drug portfolio growth. However, unlike many of its peers, Lilly is not dependent on one big drug for its profits; its biggest seller, Humalog, accounted for only 13% of sales in 2017. That lessens the risk of a sudden competitive surprise, but some attrition will be a fact of life.

Let's not ignore the possibility that the company might not use all of that cash to its best advantage. There is going to be competition for the best drug assets out there, especially in the area of oncology, and Lilly could overpay. Management said to expect "a busy year in business development for oncology for Lilly." There are plenty of similar discussions going on in most big pharma companies, suddenly flush with repatriated profits. 

the opportunity, with the stock hitting a new 365-day low and trading down 17% from its high last month. " data-reactid="47">However, a number of developments are coming together to create an opportunity for Lilly investors: greater optionality for tranformative deal making, a potential catalyst in the divestiture of the animal health division, and an improving profit growth picture. The market hasn't recognized the potential of these factors, and the recent market pullback has only contributed to the opportunity, with the stock hitting a new 365-day low and trading down 17% from its high last month. 

Eli Lilly may be just the right medicine for the market jitters.

More From The Motley Fool

Jim Crumly has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Novo Nordisk. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Source : https://finance.yahoo.com/news/why-best-time-years-buy-110200009.html

Why This Is the Best Time in Years to Buy Eli Lilly
In a turf war with Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk steps off with positive PhIII for its challenging oral GLP-1 drug
BRIEF-Lilly Says Treatment With Taltz Showed Improvement In Impact Of Genital Psoriasis On Sexual Activity
Here's How Eli Lilly Stock Can Regain Its Footing
Hot-selling Lilly anti-inflammatory drug passes key hurdle for third use
Eli Lilly and Hanmi Shutter a Failed Phase II RA Trial
Eli Lilly: Taltz Improves Sexual Health Of Genital Psoriasis Patients
Intermediate Trade: Eli Lilly
Eli Lilly and : Rediscovering My Purpose
[LIMITED STOCK!] Related eBay Products