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Lilly stock stagnation: 11 years and counting

May 14, 2008

Eli Lilly and Co. has been essentially treading water now for nearly 11 years. The company's stock closed yesterday at a low the company hasn't seen since June 5, 1997.

Lilly shares dropped 74 cents apiece to close at $47.55. The last time Lilly shares closed lower, it still had patent protection on its antidepressant Prozac and the chief of its corporate strategy was a guy named Mitch Daniels.

Over that time period Lilly shareholders have enjoyed consistent dividends. Even though the share price has been flat, their return has been a combined 27 percent. Still, on a compounded basis, that's just 2.5 percent per year.

The trouble started when an appeals court stripped Lilly of its Prozac patents in 2000. The day before the Prozac ruling, Lilly shares closed at $108.55.

The company survived by growing sales of its antipsychotic medicine Zyprexa into an even bigger blockbuster. But a few missteps, legal and regulatory hurdles, and a general downturn in the pharmaceutical industry have caused Lilly to stagnate on Wall Street.

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