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Gilead's Big Picture

By Jeff Hwang
October 29, 2003
Taking the long-term view, we try not to focus too much on quarterly earnings "misses." No. 8 biotech Gilead Sciences (Nasdaq: GILD) shows us why.

Make no mistake: Gilead missed badly. Where investors were looking for around $230 million in revenues in the third quarter, Gilead brought in a mere $200.4 million. The miss can be attributed to Viread, the company's lead AIDS drug, which drew sales of $115.4 million -- well short of the $150 million estimate. As a result, the stock shot nearly 15% lower to $50.83 in after-hours trading.

But here's the deal: Viread sales were down 31%, as wholesaler buying in front of a scheduled price increase had inflated sales last quarter. This led to an inventory build up, which led, in turn, to higher than expected inventory drawdowns at wholesalers in the range of $33 million to $37 million, which cut into third-quarter sales.

If investors made a mistake, it was pricing too much of Viread's second-quarter success into the stock. So maybe Gilead missed this quarter (it did). And perhaps the second quarter was an anomaly (it was). Either way, as long as the problem is not systemic, it won't matter much over the long haul.

Look at it another way: If you had paid $7 a share for GILD on October 29, 1998 and held, you'd be looking at a five bagger. And if today, you choose to take the long view, and GILD returns another 400% in five years, it won't matter if sales were a bit lumpy and which quarter missed.

Jeff Hwang can be reached at
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