Is AstraZeneca the Ultimate Stock Picker's Share?


LONDON -- I use a market statistics to identify shares for further research. Whatever the market conditions, stock-picking software will always identify a share worth buying.

AstraZeneca is the 12th biggest company in the FTSE 100. It is a true blue chip. According to a large number of investment strategies, the shares should be bought today.

What's to love?
AstraZeneca shares satisfy selection criteria that makes them attractive to three different types of investor. AstraZeneca currently ticks the boxes for value, income, and momentum strategies.

A value play
Investors have long been skeptical of the company's ability to develop new drugs. Perhaps as a result of this, AstraZeneca shares made no progress at all in the three years ending 2012.

Today, AstraZeneca trades on a 2013 P/E of just 9.6 times 2013 forecasts. AstraZeneca's rating is in the bottom 10% of the entire index. Low valuations like that are usually the result of masses of negative sentiment.

If AstraZeneca can convince the markets that its earnings are not about to enter a prolonged decline, then I would expect the shares to rise significantly.

Income credentials
According to the consensus of broker forecasts, AstraZeneca trades on a prospective yield for 2013 of 5.5%. The 2014 forecast dividend yield amounts to an impressive 5.6%. The payout is almost twice covered by earnings, meaning that there is little risk of a cut.

Few companies have a record of paying a dividend of such size. Another factor to attract investors is the fact that AstraZeneca has not cut its dividend in more than ten years.

By my calculations, only Shell is currently cheaper on both a P/E and yield basis.

Strong share price
Many investors won't buy unless they see some signs of share price revival. So far this year, AstraZeneca shares are up 14.1%. That's well ahead of the FTSE 100, which is up 9% in the same period. This upturn in AstraZeneca's share price means that the shares have now come to the attention of momentum investors.

Momentum investors believe that a company's shares are more likely to rise if they have some gains behind them. For AstraZeneca to get back to the kind of rating enjoyed by the average FTSE 100 company, the shares would need to rise more than 30%.

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David O'Hara has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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