Sell Johnson & Johnson because of its 'stretched' valuation: Goldman

  • Goldman Sachs lowers its rating for Johnson & Johnson to sell from neutral, predicting the drugmaker's earnings growth will lag its peers during the next five years.
  • The company has outperformed the market this year, with its shares up 17 percent through Tuesday compared with the S&P 500's 12 percent return.
Getty Images

It has been a good year for Johnson & Johnson shareholders, but now Goldman Sachs says investors should ring the register.

The firm on Wednesday lowered its rating for the company to sell from neutral, predicting the drugmaker's earnings growth will lag its peers during the next five years.

After the note, the stock was down 1.5 percent in early trading Wednesday.

"While JNJ's pharma division has improved and we expect accelerated growth in the near term, pressure on key franchises coupled with still slow growth of MD&D (Medical Devices & Diagnostics) and persistent pressure in consumer leaves JNJ with a below average long-term growth outlook that suggests valuation is stretched," analyst Jami Rubin wrote in a note to clients.

The company has outperformed the market this year with its shares up 17 percent through Tuesday compared with the S&P 500's 12 percent return.

Rubin predicts Johnson & Johnson will grow its earnings per share 7 percent annually during the next five years versus her 10 percent industry average forecast.

"JNJ lacks optionality for upside relative to the rest of our pharma coverage," she wrote. "The buy rated stocks in our coverage have fairly significant optionality up ahead. For instance, ABBV has a pipeline with potential for multiple best-in-class assets."

Rubin increased her price target for the company to $130 from $125, representing 4 percent downside from Tuesday's close.

"We are fully confident in our strategy to drive growth and to continue to create shareholder value in the near and long-term," said Ernie Knewitz, spokesman for Johnson & Johnson, in response to a request for comment.

— CNBC's Michael Bloom contributed to this story.