Money Matters - Simplified

Should You Sell Biogen Idec Today?

 Should you sell Biogen Idec (Nasdaq: BIIB) today? The decision to sell a stock you've researched and followed for months or years is never easy. If you fall in love with your stock holdings, you risk becoming vulnerable to confirmation bias -- listening only to information that supports your theories, and rejecting any contradictions.

 

 In 2004, longtime Fool Bill Mann called confirmation bias one of the most dangerous components of investing. This warning has helped my own personal investing throughout the Great Recession. Now, I want to help you identify potential sell signs on popular stocks within our 4-million-strong Fool.comcommunity.

Today I'm laser-focused on Biogen Idec, ready to evaluate its price, valuation, margins, and liquidity. Let's get started!

Don't sell on price
Over the past 12 months, Biogen Idec has risen 39.1% versus an S&P 500 return of 11.3%. Investors in Biogen Idec have every reason to be proud of their returns, but is it time to take some off the top? Not necessarily. Short-term outperformance alone is not a sell sign. The market may be just beginning to realize the true, intrinsic value of Biogen Idec. For historical context, let's compare Biogen Idec's recent price to its 52-week and five-year highs. I've also included a few other businesses in the same or related industries:

Company

Recent Price

52-Week High

5-Year High

Biogen Idec $67.00 $67.31 $84.80
Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN) $53.73 $61.26 $81.50
Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) $25.91 $28.00 $32.40
Cephalon (Nasdaq: CEPH) $65.92 $72.87 $84.80

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

Biogen Idec is basically at its 52-week high. This means we need to dig into the valuation to ensure that these new highs are justified.

Potential sell signs
First, let's look at the gross margins trend, which represents the amount of profit a company makes for each $1 in sales, after deducting all costs directly related to that sale. A deteriorating gross margin over time can indicate that competition has forced the company to lower prices, that it can't control costs, or that its whole industry's facing tough times. Here is Biogen Idec's gross margin over the past five years:


 Biogen Idec is having no trouble maintaining its gross margin, which tends to dictate a company's overall profitability. This is solid news; however, Biogen Idec investors need to keep an eye on this over the coming quarters. If margins begin to dip, you'll want to know why.

Next, let's explore what other investors think about Biogen Idec. We love the contrarian view here at Fool.com, but we don't mind cheating off of our neighbors every once in a while. For this, we'll examine two metrics: Motley Fool CAPS ratings and short interest. The former tells us how Fool.com's 170,000-strong community of individual analysts rate the stock. The latter shows what proportion of investors are betting that the stock will fall. I'm including other peer companies once again for context.

Company

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Short Interest (% of Float)

Biogen Idec *** 5.3%
Amgen **** 1.9%
Bristol-Myers Squibb **** 2.5%
Cephalon **** 14.9%

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

The Fool community is in the middle of the road on Biogen Idec. We typically like to see our stocks rated at four or five stars. Anything below that is a less-than-bullish indicator. I highly recommend you visit Biogen Idec's stock pitch page to see the verbatim reasons behind the ratings.

Here, short interest is at a high 5.3%. This typically indicates that large institutional investors are betting against the stock.

Now, let's study Biogen Idec's debt situation, with a little help from the debt-to-equity ratio. This metric tells us how much debt the company's taken on, relative to its overall capital structure.


 Biogen Idec has been taking on some minor debt over the past five years. When we take into account decreasing total equity over the same time period, this has caused debt-to-equity to increase, as seen in the above chart. Based on the trend alone, that's a bad sign. I consider a debt-to-equity ratio below 50% to be healthy, though it varies by industry.  Biogen Idec is currently below this level, at 21.5%.

The last metric I like to look at is the current ratio, which lets investors judge a company's short-term liquidity. If Biogen Idec had to convert its current assets to cash in one year, how many times over could the company cover its current liabilities? As of the last filing, Biogen Idec has a current ratio of 2.59. This is a healthy sign. I like to see companies with current ratios equal to or greater than 1.5.

Finally, it's highly beneficial to determine whether Biogen Idec belongs in your portfolio -- and to know how many similar businesses already occupy your stable of investments. If you haven't already, be sure to put your tickers into Fool.com's free portfolio tracker, My Watchlist. You can get started right away by clicking here to add Biogen Idec.

© 2010 UCLICK L.L.C.