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Dodge & Cox Comments on Eli Lilly

- By Holly LaFon

During the second quarter of 2017, we initiated a position in Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY), a leading drug company focused on branded pharmaceuticals and animal health products. As the only pharmaceutical company with a presence across all major drug classes in the diabetes field, it has an advantage in contracting and marketing products. Until recently, Eli Lilly was losing market share to Novo Nordisk and Sanofi in the key area of diabetes classes, given its smaller emerging markets footprint and lack of a basal insulin therapy. This trend reversed as Eli Lilly launched several new products during the last few years, and the company is now gaining share in most therapeutic areas within diabetes. Eli Lilly's partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim, where costs and profits are shared 50/50, has been important in rejuvenating its diabetes portfolio.

After weathering two recent patent expirations, Eli Lilly is entering what could be an extended period of growth. The company's four new drugs should each generate over $1 billion in annual sales. All of these recent product approvals have found commercial success and are driving future sales growth. If revenue grows as we expect, margins should improve significantly and boost earnings growth. The company has consistently had one of the better research and development (R&D) groups in the Pharmaceuticals industry due to its stable organization, thoughtful leadership, and high funding.

Most importantly, the company's newly appointed CEO leads a competent management team that appears to be well aligned with the interests of long-term shareholders and capable of navigating competitive and regulatory risks. Eli Lilly was a 1.4% position in the portfolio on December 31.

From Dodge & Cox's fourth quarter 2017 shareholder letter.

This article first appeared on GuruFocus.