Canaccord Lowers Price Target on AEterna Zentaris Inc (AEZS); Eyes Peeled to Clinical Drivers

AEterna Zentaris (NASDAQ:AEZS) delivered a financial third-quarter report on Tuesday, November 8th that “modestly” underperformed Canaccord analyst Neil Maruoka‘s expectations “on a lighter top line.” As such, the analyst reiterates a Speculative Buy rating on shares of AEZS while pulling back on the price target from $9.00 to $7.50, which represents just under a 154% increase from where the shares last closed.

For the third quarter, the biotech firm brought in $0.3 million in revenue, which came up short of the analyst’s estimate of $0.5 million. Selling, General, and Administrative (SG&A) expenses of $3.5 million were roughly “in line” with the analyst’s expectations and “relatively flat” year-over-year, with research and development (R&D) expenses of $4.5 million just above the analyst’s projection of $4.3 million, which he attributes to a rise in third-party development costs.

Meanwhile, the firm posted $30.9 million of pro forma cash and equivalents at the close of the quarter, which includes funds raised from AEZS’s most recent financing efforts, “which we believe should be sufficient to fund operations for >12 months as the company progresses through its Zoptrex and Macrilen Phase III clinical trials,” Maruoka adds.

“Our focus remains on the clinical data for Zoptrex and Macrilen, which are expected in Q1 2017. We view Zoptrex to be the key value driver for Æterna Zentaris, representing the company’s most significant revenue opportunity going forward,” the analyst contends.

As the firm builds its commercial strategy for Zoptrex, AEZS’s lead anti-cancer compound it is currently investigating, Maruoka notes, “Æterna Zentaris announced the licensing of exclusive rights to Zoptrex in Australia and New Zealand in October; this follows the licensing of rights to Taiwan, Southeast Asia, and Israel. We believe these deals will expand the commercial reach of Zoptrex, if approved in these geographies.”

Additionally, “Zoptrex pivotal data should be the major value-driver next year. The completion of the Phase III study of Zoptrex in endometrial cancer is imminent, and top line data is expected in Q1 2017. We believe that data from this trial will be the major catalyst for the stock next year,” Maruoka surmises, adding that adult growth hormone deficiency drug Macrilen upon possible approval come 2017 could be the firm’s “key to endocrinology.”

As usual, we recommend taking analyst notes with a grain of salt. According to TipRanks, analyst Neil Maruoka is ranked #4,077 out of 4,200 analysts. Maruoka has a 13% success rate and faces a loss of 43.9% in his yearly returns. When recommending AEZS, Maruoka forfeits 24.8% in average profits on the stock.

TipRanks analytics demonstrate AEZS as a Buy. Based on two analysts polled in the last 3 months, both rate a Buy on AEZS. The 12-month average price target stands at $9.50, marking a 169% upside from where the stock is currently tradingscreen-shot-11-11-16-at-05-46-pm

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