Being a leader in drug creation means you have to constantly come up with new drugs because competitors are going to be copying your winners and chipping away at your market share. Gilead was the undisputed leader in Hep-C treatments for about two years but the competitors have arrived.
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GILD - Gilead Sciences - Company Description
Gilead is a research based biopharmaceutical company that discovers, develope and commercializes medicines in areas of unmet needs. They have numerous well known drugs for treatment of HIV and various cancers but their most recent winners have been for treatment of Hep-C.
The first Hep-C drug was Sovaldi and that one was revised and reformulated in conjunction with another drug and the result was the blockbuster drug Harvoni. When taken in an 8 to 12 week regimen it cures Hep-C in 98% of patients. Otherwise they would be facing liver transplants or death. It does not just end the symptoms but it cures the disease. The downside is that it costs $96,000 for the 12 week treatment.
Last year Gilead lost a patent dispute with Merck and now that company has a competitive drug that they are discounting well under the cost of Harvoni. In the Q1 earnings Harvoni sales declined 16% from $3.58 billion to $3.02 billion. Sales in the U.S. declined more than 50% from $3.02 billion to $1.41 billion. Sales in Japan were expected to offset some of that decline but failed.
The problem is the drug Zepatier from Merck. This competitor is being priced "aggressively" in order to take market share from Gilead.
Gilead is a great company but they made a mistake on the patent and that allowed Merck to enter the market. Gilead bought back $8 billion in shares in Q1 and that helped boost the stock price to $102 ahead of earnings. They still have $21 billion in cash but stock purchases have slowed as they look for an acquisition to give them a larger drug pipeline. The board did approve another $12 billion buyback but they are not likely to be aggressive in light of the rapid decline in sales.
In order to combat the Merck drug, Gilead is being forced to significantly discount Harvoni and that means cash flow and margins will continue shrinking. They also issued guidance that was lighter than analysts expected as a result of the price cuts.
Earnings July 26th.
Shares have declined to $82, which is support from the low in January. While they have fallen significantly, I believe they will continue to decline and make a new low. The current political environment is strongly against high priced drugs and politicians will continue to try and outdo each other with headlines as the election heats up. This should weigh on the entire sector.
Initial support is $80 but given the growing negatives, it could retest support at $63.
With a GILD trade at $81.65, which would be a new 52-week low:
Buy July $80 put, currently $2.66, initial stop loss $86.75