Valuing Johnson & Johnson And Merck

Includes: JNJ, MRK
by: CRG Research

In this article, I take a look at Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), a diversified healthcare company. Further, I take a look at Merck (NYSE:MRK), a pharmaceutical company. Both companies may offer investors gains that outweigh the risks.

We'll use the management effectiveness ratios, book value-share, price-sales and price-book value to evaluate Johnson & Johnson and Merck. Additionally, macro-economic indicators are provided at the end of the article. As part of investment analysis, analysts should consider both the company fundamentals and the macro-economic landscape.

The macro-economic picture in the U.S. is deteriorating. In Europe, the economy is contracting. European officials are working towards recapitalizing the banks in Spain. Also, European officials are investigating pro-economic growth policies that would reduce the sovereign risks the region is facing. Until pro-growth policies are implemented, and Spain's banks are recapitalized, sovereign risks remain.

Rating System

  • Buy - Be long
  • Neutral - No position
  • Sell - Be short

(The ratings, research and analysis in this article should be considered as a starting point for further research.)

Johnson & Johnson: Buy

Investment Thesis

Given the macro-economic risks stemming from the U.S. and monetary and fiscal policies in the U.S. and the European Union, investors should be positioned defensively. Johnson & Johnson has limited exposure to the economic cycle - thus the company is a defensive investment.

Given the recent increase in price-sales and price-book value and the current common equity share price levels of Johnson & Johnson, investors should decrease exposure. The enterprise does face legal risks and some of its business segments could be adversely impacted by economic headwinds. Additionally, there are counter-party credit risks stemming from the crisis in Europe and market forces that could cause sales of some products to materially decline.

Company vs. Industry

  • Return on Assets (TTM): 9.01 vs. 5.47
  • Return on Investment : 11.28 vs. 8.60
  • Return on Equity : 16.67 vs. 12.77


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Pharmaceutical sales, a major portion of Johnson & Johnson's revenue, has been flat over the past year after increasing at the end of 2010.

Book value-share increased as book value increased and shares declined. There was a substantial increase in cash and decrease in marketable securities during the last reporting period; current assets increased. Accounts payable declined and contributed to a decline in current liabilities during the last quarter.

A decline in short-term liabilities was offset by an increase in long-term liabilities as long-term debt increased and short-term debt decreased. Current assets are more than twice as large as current liabilities.

The price of the common equity shares of Johnson & Johnson have traded between $60 and $65 for the last year. The $60 level should hold as support as long as strains in financial markets from Europe don't intensify and the U.S. economy continues to grow. In the event that macro-economic risks materialize, shares of Johnson & Johnson could trade as low as $50. Although, Johnson & Johnson revenue is not highly correlated with economic growth.

Price-sales is reflective of limited revenue-share growth and common equity share price volatility.

Book value increased and common equity shares outstanding marginally declined, as the common equity share price remained relatively stable.

Financial Health

During the first quarter of 2012 and 2011 earnings quality was low. Cash flow from investing was greater than cash flow from operating activities during the first quarter of 2012 as the company generated cash from the sale of investments.

It is interesting that Johnson & Johnson generates so much cash from investing activities; cash from investing was a major portion of cash generated in the first quarters of 2011 and 2012. Investing supports the company's long-term cash balance growth. Typically, operating activity is the main driver of cash balance growth.

The company is carrying roughly $20 billion of debt; roughly $13 billion is long-term debt and $1.5 billion is due in 2013. The company faces financial obligation risks.

Legal Risks

In terms of legal risks, Johnson & Johnson faces legal risks that management claims are immaterial over the long term. A case involving the off-label promotion of Risperdal includes civil and criminal charges levied against the company. The sum of legal risk is material, given the totality of ongoing legal proceedings. A rough estimate of the quantity of legal risk facing the firm is $2-$10+B.

Business segments

Consumer segment sales in the first quarter of 2012 declined compared with the year-ago quarter. A decline in sales of "women's health" products was the largest declining segment on a percentage basis; "baby care" was the next largest decliner.

Pharmaceutical sales increased 1.2 percent compared with the year-ago quarter. Gains in immunology and oncology sales were offset by declines in infectious diseases and neuroscience sales.

There was a 93.3 percent decline in sales of Levaquin / Floxin in the current quarter compared with the year-ago quarter. The decline in sales is due to loss of market exclusivity in the U.S. The decline in sales of Levaquin / Floxin seems to be an extreme case of a decline in sales caused by a loss of market exclusivity. However, the decline in sales highlights the risk of pharmaceutical products losing market exclusivity.

Medical devices and diagnostic sales were flat in the first quarter compared with the year-ago quarter.

Counter-party credit risk

Johnson & Johnson has roughly $2B-$3B of credit exposure to Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, according to the company's financial statements. The exposure to the southern European region seems to be well managed. In a worst-case scenario, losses from uncollected accounts receivable stemming from Southern Europe could total over $1B. How material losses from the region will be is still uncertain. The impact on sales of deteriorating economic conditions in Europe is a risk for Johnson & Johnson investors and the outcome is still highly uncertain.

Economic and market forces

With regard to economic and market forces, Johnson & Johnson has been able to keep the rate of increase in the prices consumer's pay for healthcare products below the U.S. inflation rate or Consumer Price Index (CPI).

An increasingly hostile environment to intellectual property continues to threaten the company's operations. Should competitors gain the ability to market generic drugs versions of Johnson & Johnson products prior to patent expiration, Johnson & Johnson would report a material decline in sales.

Merck - Sell

Investment Thesis

Given the current lack of business diversification and the valuation, a short position in Merck is recommended at this time. The loss of patent protection for Singulair further heightens anxiety about the future of the enterprise. Should valuations metrics decline to levels reflective of Merck's future operations, I may recommend the accumulation of common equity shares.

Additionally, credit risk stemming from Europe, and the loss of patent protection for Singulair, may result in Merck reporting a loss from operations.

Company vs. Industry

  • Return on Assets : 6.71 vs. 5.50
  • Return on Investment : 8.14 vs. 8.61
  • Return on Equity : 12.73 vs. 12.73

Enterprise Operations

More important than earnings is the quality of earnings, and Merck's earnings are high quality. Additionally, the company generates enough cash from operations to cover its investing and financing activities.

As part of the 2008 global restructuring program, Merck has reduced costs, increased efficiency and enhanced competitiveness. The restructuring program is mostly complete. Additionally, gross margin should expand in the next few years.

Credit Risks

As of March 31, 2012, the enterprise had $1.7B of exposure to Greece, Italy, Ireland, and Portugal through terms of credit extended as part of business operations.

Legal Risks

There is potential liability from court cases involving Vioxx and ENHANCE. Potential losses from Vioxx litigation are currently inestimable, and could materially adversely impact the company's financial position, income and cash flow.

Additionally, Merck faces litigation stemming from other products that may adversely impact the firm's financial position, income and cash flow.

Patent Risks

Between 2012 and 2013 Merck is expected to lose almost all of its revenue from the drug Singulair as the patent expires. Singulair is one of Merck's best selling drugs. Merck stands to lose roughly $4B-$5B in annual sales.


Merck competes with Abbott Labs (NYSE:ABT), Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN), Astra Zeneca (NYSE:AZN), Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY), GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Novartis (NYSE:NVS), Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), and Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE:SNY).


Book value-share declined from Q1 2010-Q1 2011 and starting rising. Recently, cash and cash equivalents increased as current assets increased compared to the year-ago quarter. However, total assets was relatively flat compared to the year-ago quarter. The company is carrying roughly $15 billion in long-term debt.

Common equity shares of Merck are rising and may be near a peak.

Price-sales is rising and may be near a peak. Revenue increased in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the year-ago quarter. The firm was able to manage operating costs effectively and operating margin increased. Compared to the year-ago quarter, dividend per share increased to $0.42.

Price-book value is rising and may be near a peak. Book value declined and shares of common equity increased in price.

Macro Environment

ISM Non-manufacturing PMI is declining; the decline in non-manufacturing PMI is considered bearish. ISM non-manufacturing PMI should stabilize in the coming months.

The pace of job growth has slowed in recent months and may stabilize at low levels.

CB consumer confidence is increasing and may decline in the coming months. The Expectation Index and the Present Situation Index both declined, according to the latest report.

European Union services PMI is declining and should increase in the coming months.

The European Union manufacturing PMI is declining and should increase in the coming months. A silver lining from the current release of the report is that the pace of decline in Italian manufacturing is slowing. Additionally, the depth of the contraction in manufacturing has yet to reach the depth of the contraction from the financial crisis in 2009.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

Disclaimer: This article is not meant to establish or continue an investment advisory relationship. Before investing, readers should consult their financial adviser. Christopher Grosvenor does not know your financial situation and ability to bare risk and thus his opinions may not be suitable for all investors.