M&A Bonanza For Drug & Biotech in 2011 (MRK, PFE, ALXN, DNDN, HGSI, CEPH, UTHR, CADX, AMAG, SNY, GENZ, AMGN, BEC, TEVA, SGMO, LLY, ALTH, CBST, VVUS, AUXL, VRTX)

January 29, 2011 · Filed Under Acquisitions, Anemia, Cancer, Cardiac, dendreon, Diabetes, Heart, Infections, M&A, obesity, R&D, Rumor · Comment 

The game of predicting mergers and acquisitions in the biotech and in pharma sectors is not a new one.  The talk heats up, then it dies down.  A deal comes, followed by another deal, and the activity goes quiet.  This next week is likely to have at least more chatter in the biohealth sector for possible mergers and acquisitions after Barron’s gave a cover story called “The New Doctor in the House: Consolidation.”

Barron’s noted that “as big drug firms buy up smaller, specialty outfits and their most innovative products, better pipelines and sales-force efficiency will boost profits.”  Here is the thing to consider: Barron’s did not really offer anything new or ground-breaking this weekend.  It will have rekindled some hope that M&A is coming in the space.  At issue: pipeline fatigue.  A note we’d throw in as well, dead-dead stocks.  We are going to at least address some of the Barron’s roster, but we want to show you many others which are just as or even more likely acquisition targets.  Some of ours have even been in-play before.

Barron’s threw in Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK) and Pfizer, Inc. (NYSE: PFE) as the largest of the Big Pharma players and it threw out biohealth names with stock-market values below $10 billion:

  • Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: ALXN) with a $7.5 billion value after a hueg run-up;
  • Dendreon Corporation (NASDAQ: DNDN) for Provenge for prostate cancer (and future cancers) with a $5 billion market value today;
  • Human Genome Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: HGSI) for its Benlysta in patients with severe active lupus nephritis and CNS lupus and a $4.5 billion market cap;
  • Cephalon, Inc. (NASDAQ: CEPH) is one we have rarely looked as since things quieted down there;
  • United Therapeutics Corporation (NASDAQ: UTHR) for its treat pulmonary arterial hypertension and an almost-$4 billion value;
  • Cadence Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CADX) was noted for its pain medication without the addiction aspects of morphine and its value is only $369 million;
  • AMAG Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMAG) was called a value stock despite its recent weak sales and despite its cash burn with a $368 million market cap.

Much of the biotech M&A game hinges on Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE: SNY) in its chase to acquire Genzyme Corporation (NASDAQ: GENZ).  The latest talk is that a work-out could come to $80 all-in if certain milestones were achieved but the deal is still south of there officially.  As noted above, we have our own opinions on which biotech companies and drug companies could find their way into the hands of a larger acquirer.

Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ: AMGN) is likely to continue being an acquirer.  The company recently announced a deal worth potentially $1 billion to acquire privately-held BioVex.  Last year the company said it was aggressively looking for new targets and its $52 billion market cap is the largest of all the independent biotechs in America. The company has more tricks up its sleeve.

Beckman Coulter Inc. (NYSE: BEC) went into play in early December with private equity firms being the likely acquirers of the portfolio of biomedical testing equipment and supplies.  We argued at the time of the premium that it seemed shares fully reflected that value, and shares are actually lower now.

And don’t forget Sangamo Biosciences Inc. (NASDAQ: SGMO), where shares rallied in November on rumors of a potential bid interest from Eli Lilly & Co. (NYSE: LLY).  It had good news on ZFP Therapeutic program to develop SB-509, a zinc finger protein transcriptional activator (ZFP-TF) of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-A gene as a treatment for ALS and the news flow has continued to propel shares higher.  It went above $4.50 on the rumors but now shares trade at $7.39.  The market cap is still low here at $334 million.

Allos Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: ALTH) has been another name floated out there for M&A possibilities, but things are looking less and less bright for the company.  Shares hit a 52-week low just on Friday.

Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CBST) has not really gone anywhere as it is deemed a mature company, but it is one we thought for sure that would find its way into being part of a larger company.  Its Cubicin is on the market and it fights severe hospital-induced infections and the market cap is $1.3 billion here.

VIVUS Inc. (NASDAQ: VVUS) remains a wild card due to the FDA.  Diet and weight-loss pills have not been given any real love by the FDA.  The exception here is that Qnexa does have serious benefits.  There are side effects, particularly in cases of pregnancy.  We would ask this though: How many pregnant and soon-to-be-pregnant women really diet?  Most doctors don’t even want pregnant women taking supplements, let alone drugs.  IF the FDA approves Qnexa, that $680 million market cap may be worth far more.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Limited (NASDAQ: TEVA)… We have also noted Teva’s mega-cap ambitions, and making more acquisitions would generally get there.

Last year, Morningstar put out a list of three favorites that it sees as acquisition targets in the biohealth space: Auxilium Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: AUXL), Human Genome Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ: HGSI), and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (NASDAQ: VRTX).  FULL ARTICLE

This should at least give you a better and more concise list of possible deals and deal-makers for 2011.  Just remember this, regardless of what Barron’s or other media outlets try to tell you: not all biotechs have to be acquired, not at all.

JON C. OGG

Top BioHealth Research Calls of the Week (MNKD, PDLI, ILMN, CLDA, MRK, PFE, LLY, BMY, ALXN, SVNT, AMGN)

January 22, 2011 · Filed Under analyst calls, fda, Financial · Comment 

There were some key research calls in biotech and biohealth shares this week.  Over in our “top five analyst calls of the week” at 24/7 Wall Street we noted how one firm came out in defense of MannKind Corporation (NASDAQ: MNKD) on its implosion this week and another call was highlighting the potential upside value that remains in PDL BioPharma, Inc. (NASDAQ: PDLI) despite its patent fight concerns.  There were many other standout calls though in analyst coverage this last week in biohealth:

Illumina Inc. (NASDAQ: ILMN) has remained impressive after having been one of our “Best of Big BioHealth in 2010″ and was also at the start of the year listed as “an overvalued biohealth names with peers.” This week brought an analyst duel.  Citigroup raised its rating to BUY from Hold and the new price target is $85.00 per share.  Thomson Reuters has a consensus price target of $66.87 and the Citi target appears to be the street-high price target.  Elsewhere, RBC Capital Markets lowered the rating to Sector Perform from Outperform due to valuation.  Illumina’s 52-week range is $34.25 to $71.07, and at $68.75 it has a market cap now of $8.6 billion.

Clinical Data Inc. (NASDAQ: CLDA) will be one to watch this coming week after the FDA approved its antidepressant drug to be sold under the brand name Viibyrd.  Shares closed at $15.03 on Friday but were much higher after the news and the 52-week trading range is $10.87 to $22.39.  What is interesting is that analysts already see peak sales above $2 billion as this antidepressant is believed to not interfere with sexual desire as much as in some rival drugs. The consensus price target is already $29.67 per Thomson Reuters data.

This week came a standout call in Big Pharma from Wells Fargo as the firm raised the sector to “Overweight.”  Wells Fargo raised Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK) and Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) to Outperform ratings and also noted Eli Lilly & Co. (NYSE: LLY) and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (NYSE: BMY) in the call.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: ALXN) closed the week out at $84.43 and has a 52-week range of $44.86 to $87.14.  There was an analyst duel this week.  Gleacher & Co. raised its rating to Buy while UBS cut its rating to Hold.

Savient Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: SVNT) hit new 52-week lows this last week and closed at $10.20 versus a 52-week range of $10.16 to $23.46.  Its shares were downgraded to “Underperform” over at Bank of America Merrill Lynch after previous news in its business update of reports of batch failures with its new gout medication called Krystexxa.

Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ: AMGN) is set to report earnings on Monday and Thomson Reuters has estimates of $1.10 EPS and $3.8 billion in revenues; for the next quarter estimates are $1.31 EPS and $3.67 billion in revenues. At $56.97 shares are actually down slightly from 90-days ago and the 52-week range is $50.26 to $61.26.  This stock is getting toward its higher end of a 3 year trading band, so we expect that analyst will have to make some adjustments after earnings.  Thomson Reuters has an average price target above $65.00 currently.

At the end of December, we gave a list of Big Biotechs With teh Most Upside in 2011.

Those are definitely not all of the research calls of the week in biotech and biohealth names, but this was a fairly busy week.

Stay Tuned!

JON C. OGG

Post-QE2 Economy Skipping Biotech (BBH, XBI, CELG, GILD, AMGN, BIIB, ALXN, MNKD, HGSI, VVUS, DNDN)

November 6, 2010 · Filed Under analyst calls, Anemia, Cancer, dendreon, fda, Financial, Lupus, M&A, multiple sclerosis, obesity · Comment 

Things have changed in the last week.  The mid-term elections took away the majority of the House of Representatives, and the Senate now no longer has the super-majority which could get laws passed no matter what they included.  Now it seems that the tax cuts may be extended for another year or maybe two years, which could imply a permanent change ahead if the 2010 election trends remain close to the same in 2012.  Quantitative easing from the FOMC is meant to drive investors into riskier assets and create a higher pricing environment to avoid deflationary pressure.  Generally speaking, those riskier assets are commodities, and broader stocks tied to industrial, exports, financials, and more.  But what about biotech and emerging pharma?  So far, QE2, tax extension, and the reversal of ‘the new normal’ has not highlighted biotech in the slightest.

Biotech HOLDRs (NYSE: BBH) and SPDR S&P Biotech (NYSE: XBI) are classic examples of underperforming ETFs in the last week as you can see in the chart below.  The Biotech HOLDRs actually fell during the rest of the market gains, while the SPDR S&P Biotech ETF significantly underperformed the PowerShares QQQ (NASDAQ: QQQQ).

A research call this last Thursday came from Goldman Sachs and it was cautious in Celgene Corporation (NASDAQ: CELG) and Gilead Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD); and the call was very cautious in Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ: AMGN) and Biogen Idec Inc. (NASDAQ: BIIB).  Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: ALXN) was the one that Goldman Sachs liked, and despite its large gains so far in 2010 the stock performed well after rising from about $68 early Tuesday to  close the week out at $72.72.

MannKind Corp. (NASDAQ: MNKD) is one of those companies that will have nearly zero impact from Quantitative Easing nor from who is in control of the House, Senate, or White House.  Alfred Mann’s inhalable insulin candidate took a hit because of fraud allegations from a terminated employee who brought up study misconduct concerns. Shares went from $6.20 on Thursday early morning to close the week out at $5.54 for roughly a 10% drop.  The 52-week range is $4.76 to $11.12, and the general theme is that AFREZZA is farther and farther away from approval.

Human Genome Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ: HGSI) has lost some of its high-flyer status compared to 2009 and early 2010, and this week brought about a negative cloud on teh company even though the company itself was not at fault.  The SEC charged a French research doctor with insider trading that allowed a hedge fund to dump 6 million shares after a tip that the drug Albuferon for Hepatitis C had negative test results.  The problem is that the incident goes back to 2007.  Human Genome shares were nearly at $27.00 at the start of the week and they closed at $25.31 versus a 52-week range of $20.56 to $34.49.

VIVUS Inc. (NASDAQ: VVUS) was started as Buy at Roth Capital this last week with a $12 price target, yet it did not hold much of the large gains from the week before.  VIVUS shares rose a week earlier from $6.13 ti $7.75 after the FDA denied its Qnexa weight loss drug but after most issues seemed to be within working conditions without the need for a new round of drug trials.  Shares did not close on the lows Friday, but the loss was close to 10% at $7.12 on the week.  If this is approved, we have seen some research that indicates many patients will probably pay out of pocket on their own for this if insurance reimbursement rates do not cover it.

Dendreon Corporation (NASDAQ: DNDN) was another dud this week.  The company’s loss was more than $79 million due to ongoing product expansion and promotion costs for PROVENGE.  The drug is selling less than expected so far.  The company sold $20.2 million and sales grew each month, but analysts were looking for nearly $24 million in sales.  Dendreon gave sales projections of $46 to $47 million in 2010 revenue.  It said it expects $350 to $400 million in revenue in 2011, but 2011 is expected to be very back-end loaded as capacity comes on line.  That implies that any delay will push revenues further and further out, perhaps as more prostate cancer competition can come on the market.  Analyst expectations were more like $62.6 million in 2010 and over $400 million in 2011.  Shares peaked at $39.00 during the week but closed down at $35.07; its 52-week range is $25.05 to $57.67.

Most investors consider biotech and emerging pharma to be risk-based assets.  These are a different sort of risk.  Some of the pressure from Washington D.C. may abate, but Republicans have vowed to address some of the cost side of the equation when it comes to healthcare.  If Washington can figure a way for hospitals to not charge $25 for administering an aspirin tablet or an ibuprofen pill, it seems logical that $20,000 to $90,000 treatment regimens could remain under scrutiny.

So far, biotech and emerging pharma is being discounted entirely despite the winds of change feeling a tad less abrasive.

JON C. OGG

Goldman Sachs Caution in Biotechs (AMGN, BIIB, CELG, GILD, ALXN)

November 4, 2010 · Filed Under analyst calls, Research · Comment 

Goldman Sachs is taking a very cautious view on many of the large biotech leaders in a new coverage call.  While there is a silver lining call in one, the bulk of the research has a very cautious stance due to revenue woes that could lie ahead for the large biotechs.

Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ: AMGN) started with a “SELL” rating.

Biogen Idec Inc. (NASDAQ: BIIB) started with a “SELL” rating.

Celgene Corporation (NASDAQ: CELG) started with a “NEUTRAL” rating.

Gilead Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD) started with a “NEUTRAL” rating.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: ALXN) is the standout stock this morning and the exception to the rule.  Alexion shares were started on the CONVICTION BUY LIST and the stock is up 2% at $71.94 and close to challenging the 52-week high of $72.45.

JON C. OGG

BIOTECH STOCK SPLITS: Alexion's First Split (ALXN)

August 12, 2008 · Filed Under General · Comments Off 

Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: ALXN) is about to see its first corporate and investor event tomorrow of this kind.  August 13 will be the EX-DATE for its 2-for-1 stock split which was announced back on July 29.

What is sort of odd is that this stock reached $100 briefly during the summer months way back in 2000 during the NASDAQ bubble days and it did not split then.  It then traded as low as $10.00 by late-2002.  When this came public in 1996 it was less than a $10.00 stock.

Alexion’s stock has done well as this was in the mid-$70′s in mid-July and shares put in a new 52-week and multi-year high just yesterday with shares briefly trading above $95.00.  Shares are down almost 2% on light volume at 10:00 AM EST at $93.25.  It isn’t happening with any conviction, but it looks like there is light profit taking with low interest from market makers this morning ahead of tomorrow’s effective split.

2007 marked the entry stage for Alexion’s revenue generation when it posted $72 million in revenues.  Analysts are looking for 2008 revenues of about $247.3 million and 2009 revenues of about $382 million.  2008 is expected to be modestly profitable but analysts are looking for profits above $1.50 EPS in 2009.

The company markets Soliris (eculizumab) for the treatment of paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH), a rare and life-threatening blood disorder in the United States and Europe.  The company is evaluating expanded uses and is also involved in several other various studies of unrelated treatments such as cancer vaccines, age-related macular degeneration, myasthenia gravis and multi-focal motor neuropathy, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, multiple myeloma, and asthma.

Its market cap today is $3.6 Billion and it is sometimes rather active in stock options.  Alexion’s 52-week trading range is $49.26 to $95.27, which after today will read as an adjusted $24.63 to $47.635.

JON OGG
August 12, 2008

Analyst Research Calls Impacting Biotechs (ALXN, OSCI, SGMO, VVUS, CRA)

May 29, 2008 · Filed Under daily · Comments Off 

There were some research calls that are affecting many shares of biotech stocks this morning, as follows:

  • Alexion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALXN) started as Buy at Piper Jaffray, shares up almost 2%.
  • Oscient Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OSCI) started as Neutral at Piper Jaffray; shares flat as a thin volume stock.
  • Sangamo Biosciences (NASDAQ: SGMO) Started as Sell at Brean Murray; shares down 11%
  • Vivus (NASDAQ: VVUS) Cut to Market Perform from Outperform at Wachovia; shares down some 4%.

Elsewhere, Celera Genomics (NYSE: CRA) was started with a “Perform” rating at Oppenheimer.  While Celera is a molecular diagnostic company, they are involved in the identification and validation of diagnostic markers using their own proprietary genomics and proteomics discovery platforms.

Jon Ogg
May 29, 2008

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