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Undervalued by 28%, This Stock Is a Buy for Patient Investors

We think this wide-moat company is well positioned to drive growth beyond 2024.

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Biogen Inc

Biogen BIIB is having a tough year: Its shares are down 15% through early May. The wide-moat drugmaker’s new product launches and cost-cutting programs are fighting headwinds from a declining portfolio of older multiple sclerosis drugs. Yet we expect encouraging launches to lead to solid growth beyond 2024, and we think this undervalued stock looks attractive. Biogen appeared on our list of 10 undervalued wide-moat stocks to buy several weeks ago. It’s also among Morningstar chief US market strategist Dave Sekera’s three stocks to buy after earnings.

Biogen is expanding its neurology portfolio beyond multiple sclerosis, including blockbuster neuromuscular disease drug Spinraza and Alzheimer’s disease drug Leqembi. In MS, Avonex and longer-acting Plegridy generate nearly $2 billion in annual sales and remain the leading MS interferon drugs. MS antibody Tysabri also sees $2 billion in annual sales due to its high efficacy but will feel pressure from biosimilars. Oral MS drug Tecfidera peaked above $4 billion in sales in 2019, but US generics drastically cut into sales in 2021. We think new oral therapy Vumerity offers improved gastrointestinal tolerability but will only partly offset this headwind. While pricing power and demand for the injectable MS portfolio are eroding in the face of new competition, Biogen receives substantial royalties on the biggest new competitor, Roche’s Ocrevus, which helps offset pressure on older MS drugs. New drugs like Zurzuvae for postpartum depression, Qalsody for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Skyclarys for Friedreich ataxia support Biogen’s portfolio. We also think the market underestimates Biogen’s pipeline, which includes drug candidates to treat conditions including Alzheimer’s, lupus, Parkinson’s, and ALS.

Key Morningstar Metrics for Biogen

Economic Moat Rating

Biogen has achieved strong profitability based on its diversified MS portfolio and its Roche collaboration in oncology, and it has the intangible assets to support a wide moat. We think barriers to entry are high for potential biosimilars to Biogen’s products, and the company has a strong research and development strategy for maintaining its leadership in MS and neurodegenerative diseases, where pricing power is strong, patient need for novel therapies is high, and it has been building a solid pipeline. Returns on invested capital, historically north of 20%, are likely to bottom out over the next couple of years due to generic pressure on Tecfidera and biosimilar pressure on Rituxan and Tysabri. However, we expect ROICs to continue to exceed our 7.2% cost of capital estimate and to rebound to the midteens in the long run.

Read more about Biogen’s moat rating.

Fair Value Estimate for Biogen Stock

Our fair value estimate is $303 per share. We think Biogen’s top line will return to 2020 levels by 2028, with growth returning in 2025 as the Leqembi launch expands. We include a placeholder for future litigation risk at roughly 1% of non-GAAP net income. We assume more than $7 billion in global peak sales of Biogen/Eisai’s Leqembi. We include a 30% probability of approval and $2 billion in probability-weighted sales by 2030 for antisense tau drug BIIB080, which is in phase 2. We expect sales of newly approved drug Skyclarys will eventually exceed $1 billion. We think combined global sales of Avonex and Plegridy will continue to fall, with low-double-digit declines annually because of new competition. We expect steeper Tysabri declines beginning in 2024, following the launch of a Sandoz biosimilar. We include Ocrevus peak sales of $9 billion.

Read more about Biogen’s fair value estimate.

Risk and Uncertainty

Biogen’s profitability depends on three key blockbusters (Avonex/Plegridy, Tysabri, and Spinraza) and recently approved drugs, including Alzheimer’s drug Leqembi. While demand is relatively inelastic for Biogen’s portfolio of MS treatments, the commercial failure of Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm demonstrates the high-risk nature of some of Biogen’s pipeline targets. Biogen is still vulnerable to biosimilar Rituxan, which launched in 2020 in the US, as revenue from the Roche collaboration feeds directly to the bottom line and boosts margins. We think the company does face some environmental, social, and governance risk, particularly related to potential US drug price-related policy reform and ongoing potential for product governance issues.

Read more about Biogen’s risk and uncertainty.

Biogen Bulls Say

  • Biogen leads the $20 billion global MS market with Avonex, Plegridy, Tysabri, and Tecfidera. The launch of Vumerity partly protects Tecfidera sales from generic headwinds in the US.
  • Biogen receives royalties and profit share from Roche on MS drug Ocrevus and multiple CD20-targeted cancer therapies, boosting profitability.
  • Biogen’s neurology portfolio outside of MS, including Leqembi in Alzheimer’s, should help diversify revenue and boost sales growth.

Biogen Bears Say

  • Injectable MS therapies like Avonex have lost their edge, as branded oral competitors and generic injectables have launched and Tysabri looks vulnerable to biosimilars.
  • Biogen’s phase 3 Alzheimer’s program for aducanumab was halted in March 2019 and produced mixed data. While the drug was approved in the US in June 2021, it has been a commercial failure and discontinued.
  • Spinraza’s annual sales quickly grew to $2 billion, but oral competition and gene therapy threaten growth.

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This article was compiled by Susan Dziubinski and Sylvia Hauser.

The author or authors do not own shares in any securities mentioned in this article. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.

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About the Author

Karen Andersen

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Karen Andersen, CFA, is a strategist for Morningstar Research Services LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Morningstar, Inc. She is responsible for biotechnology research.

Before joining Morningstar in 2005, Andersen received a master’s degree in business administration from Rice University, where she served as senior healthcare analyst for the M.A. Wright Fund and earned the distinction of Jones Scholar. She has scientific research experience in both academia (at Rice University and the University of Queensland in Australia) and industry (at Lexicon Genetics and a subsidiary of Genzyme).

Andersen also holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Rice University, where she graduated magna cum laude. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and holds the Chartered Financial Analyst® designation. She ranked first in the biotechnology industry, and had the highest score overall, in The Wall Street Journal’s annual “Best on the Street” analysts survey in 2013, the last year the survey was conducted.

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