- Moderna (MRNA) stock was always more than a Covid-19 vaccine play
- New formulas show promise against HIV
- Insiders are selling
Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) stock is more than just a drug company. It is built on a method for finding drugs using messenger RNA. But its mRNA-1273 vaccine made it a stock market star.
Investors believe that Covid-19 mine is played out. Moderna opened March 29 at about $178/share. In early September, it sold for almost $450.
At its current price, Moderna is a cheap stock. It looks like Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD) stock did after its success with Harvoni, a cure for Hepatitis C. The market capitalization of nearly $72 billion is just six times forward earnings. Investors expect the earnings to fall.
Meanwhile the company’s books were stuffed with $10.7 billion in cash and securities at the end of 2021. It had sales of $18.4 billion last year and two-thirds of it, $12.2 billion, became net income.
More Gold to Come With MRNA Stock
There may be more COVID gold to be mined. Analysts expect $7.36 billion of first quarter revenue on May 26. They expect profits of $6.06/share, over $2.5 billion.
Moderna is working on a version of its vaccine for young children. A new Covid-19 variant called BA.2 is sweeping the globe. China is shutting down the city of Shanghai, with 26 million people, to contain the spread.
Moderna should have years of Covid-19 profits ahead. It has a compound called mRNA-1230 it sees as an annual booster against COVID, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus. Another vaccine would protect against four other less well-known coronaviruses.
But there are problems. Government funding for Covid-19 vaccines is drying up. Moderna also faces lawsuits over the lipid particles used in making its vaccine and how they were used. Plaintiffs aren’t seeking to stop production but collect royalties, taking back some of those big profits. At stake is the global supply of mRNA vaccine and its price.
The Next Act
I touted Moderna’s 2018 initial public offering (IPO) and called it the “stock of the decade” in 2020 because mRNA offers a new method for creating all kinds of drugs.
Moderna’s pipeline includes vaccines against HIV and Zika, as well as drugs against cancer and heart disease. So far, only two of its other vaccines have entered Phase 3 trial. There has been excitement over its vaccine against HIV, but human trials have only just begun.
I took my own advice on Moderna stock in early 2021, buying 100 shares for my retirement account. I sold for a profit late in the year with the pandemic fading.
I wasn’t alone. Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel sold over $400 million in Moderna stock last year. Bancel’s sales broke no laws but brought out critics who want rules amended so trades are more transparent.
The Bottom Line
Moderna struck lightning in a bottle with mRNA-1273. It was able to ship vaccine for animal experiments just 25 days after the virus’ genetic sequence was released. The design process itself took two days.
Now Moderna needs to prove its mRNA methodology against other diseases, creating therapeutics as well as vaccines. Until it can do that, it will be valued solely based on the cash flow from mRNA-1273, and it will get increasing pushback on its pricing and its intellectual property.
Moderna stock is down 30% so far in 2022, after shares bottomed March 7 at about $125 each. Given the promise of the technology, I would look to get back in, this time for the long run.
On the date of publication, Dana Blankenhorn held no positions in companies mentioned in this story. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.