AbbVie Begins Trading On The NYSE And Should Prove Valuable In The New Year

| About: AbbVie Inc. (ABBV)

By Jake King

AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV), the R&D-focused spinoff of Abbot Laboratories (NYSE:ABT), began its first day of trading on the NYSE on Wednesday, Jan. 2. We expect shares of the biopharmaceutical company to perform well over the course of 2013 given the success of recent pharmaceutical spinoffs and the growth of its lead products. Take Zimmer Holdings (ZMH) and Medco for instance, both of which proved to be home runs following their splits from Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) and Merck (NYSE:MRK), respectively, suggesting that investors will be interested in owning ABBV as well.

Until its late-stage products begin to prove out, analysts and investors will be focused primarily on lead product Humira's growth trajectory, and to a lesser extent Androgel, which should continue to expand despite additional competition in the next few years. The company's pipeline, particularly ABBV's oral Hepatitis C regimen, will be a determinant of success later in the decade. Analysts forecast 10% upside from current levels, and shares should trade toward the high $30s in the near term.

AbbVie is a one-product company, but growing revenue should continue to drive value. For the time being, AbbVie is a one-trick pony. Sales of the auto-immune drug Humira are expected to come in at more than $9 billion in 2013, making up at least 50% of AbbVie's estimated $18 billion revenue, and investors will remain focused on the drug until AbbVie's pipeline begins to prove out in the next few years. Investors may proceed with caution considering competition from oral comparators like Pfizer's (NYSE:PFE) Xeljanz, but as Xeljanz remains a second-line product in rheumatology, we don't expect it to make a dent in Humira sales immediately. With its proven track record, physicians continue to utilize Humira before switching patients over to Pfizer's oral drug.

While Humira sales growth may slow in the next few years due to competition, sales aren't expected to decline as the immense market for auto-immune drugs continues to expand at a 6% CAGR annually -- from $32 billion in 2008, it's expected to reach $48 billion in 2015. Analysts estimate sales of the drug will peak at over $12 billion in 2017. AbbVie's additional products, like the segment-leading testosterone replacement therapy Androgel, will remain in the spotlight as well for AbbVie investors, and revenue should continue to grow until generics begin entering the market later in the decade.

As with all biotechs, product development will be crucial to future value. The above value drivers will be the focus of investors in the near term as AbbVie progresses its pipeline, namely its all-oral Hepatitis C (HCV) franchise. AbbVie's regimen should hit the market in 2015, just ahead of Gilead Sciences' (NASDAQ:GILD) similar regimen. Although Gilead's appears more convenient, and a number of competing oral regimens could displace AbbVie's as market leader, AbbVie will nevertheless secure a lucrative portion of the HCV market due to its first-to-market advantage and product differentiation. Elagolix, an endometriosis treatment, and GLPG0634, a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, are both expected to be top products for AbbVie when they reach the market in the next few years.

Nevertheless, AbbVie's pipeline is still far from producing revenue, and the company will need to demonstrate success in the clinic before investors shift focus from AbbVie's already commercialized products to these new drugs in the next few years. Analysts have average price targets of around $39, and revenues should peak at $20 billion by 2017 without products to replace Humira's immense sales. The success of previous pharma spin-offs and growing revenues in the near term, however, should drive ABBV gains in the next year.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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