If you've spent the last few months trying to pick the winning stock of the swine flu vaccine horse race, here's a challenging opinion for you…you might be wasting your time. It's not that they're necessarily won't be a winner. Indeed, there may be several winners. But, maybe the word 'winner' is strictly a relative term.
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Though the World Health Organization has been dealing with the swine flu outbreak since March, it wasn't until the last few days they deemed it 'unstoppable' as a pandemic. As such, the WHO also formally gave pharmaceutical companies the full go-ahead to begin making H1N1 vaccines.
A spokesperson for the World Health Organization also said a vaccine could be ready by September.
But which vaccine? Which company? Great question - they didn't say. I'm sure the WHO knows several companies are working on them; I just don't think they care at this point by who or how many companies it's made.
So is it possible that several pharmaceutical manufacturers are in a position to win this game? It seems to be the case, especially if revenue is the scorecard.
At the same time the WHO was announcing that the swine flu outbreak was unstoppable, the United States - through the U.S. Health and Human Services office - was committing another $884 million towards H1N1 vaccine ingredients (on top of the $1 billion allocation from May). This latest round of money was being allocated to four different companies. Other governments are also throwing money at manufacturers using the shotgun approach.
Multiple companies are winning, even though none of them have actually produced a tested and approved swine flu vaccine yet. (Learn more about investing into companies that perform significant research and development in our article Buying Into R&D.)
Who Gets What?
Baxter International (NYSE:BAX) could be getting an estimated $245 million in sales from France, and the U.K. has ordered up to 90 million doses of an H1N1 vaccine through a Baxter/Glaxo partnership. Though no price has been set yet, a cost of $10 per dose of flu vaccine seems to (roughly) be the going rate. So, it wouldn't be off base to say Glaxo and Baxter could be splitting up to $900 million.
GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK), aside from the deal with Baxter and the U.K. government, will also be receiving $71.4 million from the U.S. government for bulk oil and water adjuvant.
Novartis (NYSE:NVS) will be one of four companies splitting over $900 million from the France vaccination effort. The biggest win will come from the latest round of U.S. spending though. Novartis will be collecting another $690 million for its antigen.
Interestingly, the U.K. has not placed an order for any of the Novartis vaccine, though the company reports 35 other countries have. That's the power of being first, though it's not yet clear how well the vaccine performs.
Sanofi-Aventis (SNY) - through Sanofi-Pasteur - will also be splitting France's $900 million effort in addition to collecting $61.4 million from the U.S. Health and Human Services office for bulk vaccine antigen.
MedImmune, a subsidiary of AstraZenaca (NYSE:AZN), is in line to collect $61 million from the U.S. government for its nasal spray version of an H1N1 vaccine. That's on top of the $90 million contract from earlier this year.
There's another company that's also in the swine flu vaccine race that we haven't heard much about - Sinovac Biotech Ltd. (NYSE:SVA). We do know that China's government ordered 4 million vaccine doses, which should roughly translate into $40 million in revenue (if the pricing is consistent with other flu doses). The company is planning to supply up to 10 million doses to the Beijing government.
The Bottom Line
That's a lot of dollars, and bear in mind this new money is an addition to the initial orders place immediately after the worry began this spring.
Many have been trying to pinpoint which company is making the 'best' swine flu vaccine. Maybe you don't have to. It looks like any and all of them are in demand, since there's not enough of it around (and won't be for a while). As long as they show any efficacy at all in testing, and don't cause major harm, I have a feeling they'll all be widely used.
Why? Because at this juncture, quantity is more critical than quality. That will change once the pandemic is under control, but for this first wave, I think all these stocks have something going for them. The top lines are already set up very nicely for Q3 and Q4. (See Patents Are Assets, So Learn How To Value Them and Pharma Patent Trolls: Cheap Drugs At A Steep Price for additional reading.)
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