Market Overview

Johnson & Johnson Emerging Out Of A Dark Place

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Johnson & Johnson Emerging Out Of A Dark Place

It seems that Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) has finally started shaking off those heavy legal headwinds. Accusations of tainted baby powder was just the latest chapter in its long book of controversy. Although the complicated legal process can drag on for years, its stock has posted a 6% return in the first 11 months of 2019.

Dow's return was 22% return but the result highlights the company's resiliency in the face of heavy negative sentiment and severe legal headwinds. And after it announced extensive tests showed no trace of asbestos that FDA claimed to find in October, its stock rose 1% on Wednesday.

No Asbestos After All!

On December 3, as part of Johnson and Johnson's latest effort to prove the safety of its products, more tests showed that the baby powder was free of asbestos. Therefore, the company concluded that the most probable cause of FDA's report that led to a nationwide recall of 33,000 products in October was due to either a contaminated sample, analyst error or both. This was the first time the company recalled its famous baby powder for possible contamination with this known carcinogen, and also the first time US regulators announced such a finding in this product.

But, this was only the latest blow as the company is facing more than 15,000 lawsuits that also target its opioids, medical devices and the antipsychotic Risperdal. Just in September, they were forced to pay $572 million after being found guilty of deceptive marketing relating to its opioid drugs.

They even needed to pay $8 billion in damages to a consumer due to not warning that use of Risperdal could cause male breast growth. And let's not forget patent concerns as it already lost US patent exclusivity to Remicade which was its once top-selling drug and its last US patent for Stelara which generated 6% of total revenue last year is about to expire in 2023. And there are many lawsuits on this front as well.

Position

This is the world's largest healthcare company. But the question is: is it eroding? While its brand has remained strong through it all, it is dropping in popularity and consequently, value, due to all this reputational damage.

Bayer (OTC: BAYRY) is also facing its legal battle but at least it managed to buy more time. The company reached an agreement to postpone lawsuits over the alleged cancer-causing effects of its glyphosate-based weed killers, giving more time for talks seeking a settlement.

The Cincinnati-based maker of consumer goods, Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) decided to commercialize the research on packaging for liquid products through an Innventure portfolio company called AeroFlexx. Their revolutionary package solution is at least 50% less plastic, enhances the consumer experience and reduces shipping costs as it's easier to move along the supply chain. Overall, it has great odds of boosting P&G's revenue.

Unilever (NYSE: UL) just hired its new CMO, 13 months after it got its new CEO. The CMO title went to Conny Braams, a not-so-well-known operational hero that use to run its middle-Europe segment. By not going for a ‘brand-building' name, the company has put a clear emphasis on wanting to build its complex operational effectiveness.

Like others, it is being squeezed by discount retailers and venture capitalists who offer both cheap products and premium innovations and these are not easy to compete with. And let's not forget Colgate Palmolive (NYSE: CL) which is generating significantly more profit after accounting for expenses comparing to its market peers, yet it is a somewhat riskier investment.
due to not investing in short-term assets in an optimal way. So, a somewhat mixed picture showing both strengths and weaknesses. As of the whole sector.

Outlook

The bottom line is that despite the reputational damage due to an endless flow of legal proceedings, the stock is not showing any signs of technical damage. This surely raises the odds of breaking out in the coming months as the company continues to stabilize as all that legal dust settles.

Investors have a reason to worry considering all those eroding factors. But considering the weight of those headwinds, it has always found a way to pull through whereas other companies facing similar challenges have seen their stock plunge. One thing is for sure: the more than 130-years old healthcare conglomerate deserves a medal for stock resiliency, or to be more precise, for its successful diversification across healthcare.

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Image by pascalhelmer from Pixabay

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