Which stocks have been the stars of 2020? Biotechs. Amid the onset of the global health crisis, companies advancing COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and testing kits have seen their shares take off rapidly on an upward trajectory. That said, Wall Street focus has locked in on the space for a different reason, namely merger & acquisition (M&A) activity.
Sure, against the backdrop of the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn, some names have opted to put a temporary hold on deal activity given the uncertainty that remains. That’s not to say deals aren’t being made. Based on data from Refinitiv, in the first half of 2020, there have been 20,664 mergers announced globally, totaling $1.2 trillion as of June 30.
With deals still being inked, the Street’s pros argue that there’s an opportunity for investors, as buyouts represent one of the fastest ways to see returns. Why? If a particular name is snapped up by another at a premium, the former can see its shares notch a percentage gain that’s close to that of the premium.
Bearing this in mind, we used TipRanks’ database to take a closer look at two healthcare stocks that reflect strong M&A targets, according to Wall Street analysts.
Cellectar Biosciences (CLRB)
Using its patented phospholipid drug conjugates (PDCs) delivery platform to specifically target cancer cells, Cellectar Biosciences wants to improve the lives of patients battling the deadly disease. Should its CLR-131 candidate ultimately gain approval, some members of the Street believe it would make a great buyout target.
Writing for Oppenheimer, 5-star analyst Kevin DeGeeter tells clients that several factors are driving his bullish thesis. First and foremost, CLR-131 could get the FDA’s stamp of approval by the end of 2022 for lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma (LPL). To back up this prediction, the analyst stated, “There are no approved therapies for r/r LPL. Based on 100% response rate in four patients, including one CR, we expect management to advance CLR-131 into an abbreviated registration study by the end of 2020.”
On top of this, DeGeeter cites the therapy’s differentiated AE profile and competitive objective response rate (ORR) as suggesting that material off-label use could be a possibility. “While the market is highly competitive with potential for BCMA compounds to change SOC in early lines of therapy, clinical outcomes for triple refractory patients that account for about 15% of all cases remain poor with response rates of ~30% and PFS of four months,” he explained.
To this end, assuming a 60%/40% revenue split for the LPL and multiple myeloma markets, CLR-131 could generate peak sales of $290 million. If that wasn’t enough, development in rare pediatric cancers, including the potential for a priority review voucher, could drive even more upside.
Speaking to the possibility of M&A, DeGeeter commented, “We view M&A following CLR-131’s potential FDA approval as a likely outcome. Recent consolidation in the radiopharmaceutical market includes acquisitions of Advanced Accelerator Applications for $3.9 billion and of Endocyte for $2.1 billion (both in 2018). Given complex supply chains for radiopharmaceuticals, larger companies enjoy favorable economies of scale on distribution and cost of goods, in our view.”
To this end, DeGeeter rates CLRB an Outperform (i.e. Buy) rating, along with a $5 price target. This figure implies shares could soar 283% in the next year. (To watch DeGeeter’s track record, click here)
The rest of the Street agrees. Only Buy ratings, 3, in fact, have been issued in the last three months, which add up to a Strong Buy analyst consensus. At $3.67, the average price target puts the upside potential at 181%. (See CLRB stock analysis on TipRanks)
With the goal of providing patients with better and more effective treatments, Immunomedics develops immunotherapeutics that target cancer, autoimmune and other serious diseases. Following a recent pipeline win that de-risked one of its assets, M&A discussions could be on the horizon.
5-star analyst Michael Schmidt, of Guggenheim, points to the recent FDA approval of Trodelvy in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) as reflecting a “major de-risking pipeline event,” and as such, he thinks “IMMU could potentially be perceived as a theoretical acquisition candidate by investors.”
Expounding on this, Schmidt stated, “In addition, we think IMMU is well-positioned as a potential acquisition candidate based on our analysis of 69 new chemical entities and new biologics US-approved in the past 12 months given that it ranks #3, only after Vertex Pharmaceuticals’ Trikafta and Seattle Genetics’ Padcev in terms of product revenue potential, while being the smallest among these three companies.”
After assessing the clinical pipelines and commercial presence of 19 large-cap biopharmaceutical companies for potential synergies and strategic fit with IMMU, Schmidt argues several have significant overlap with Trodelvy’s potential target markets. Scoring each name based on their late-stage clinical pipeline in breast cancer, bladder cancer and lung cancers as well as their existing commercial footprint in those indications and revenue growth rates, the analyst concluded Pfizer, Merck, Rogers and Eli Lilly are the most likely to acquire IMMU.
How much would IMMU actually be worth in an M&A scenario? $50-$60 per share, in Schmidt’s opinion. That being said, even if IMMU isn’t ultimately acquired, the analyst still likes what he’s seeing.
“We currently value IMMU at $41/share as a standalone company, based on probability-of-success (PoS) adjusted peak U.S. sales of Trodelvy of $790 million, $354 million, and $1,465 million, in 3rd-line TNBC, 2nd/3rd-line bladder cancer, and 4th-line HER2-/HR+ breast cancer, and 100%, 50%, and 80% PoS, respectively… Other signal finding studies are exploring opportunities in multiple tumor types, including NSCLC, endometrial, earlier lines of metastatic breast cancer and bladder cancer, as well as early stage breast cancer, which represent potential sources of upside for the stock,” he explained.
In line with his optimistic take, Schmidt stayed with the bulls. In addition to reiterating a Buy recommendation, he left the price target at $52, which implies nearly 23% upside from current levels. (To watch Schmidt’s track record, click here)
The bulls represent the majority on this one. Out of 9 total reviews published in the last three months, 8 analysts rated the stock a Buy, while 2 said Hold. So, IMMU gets a Strong Buy consensus rating. The $46.44 average price target suggests shares could rise nearly 10% in the next twelve months. (See IMMU stock analysis on TipRanks)
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