Gilead Sciences Could Be the First to Beat the Coronavirus

The coronavirus’ grip on the market continues. Since the beginning of February, the S&P 500 has shed 8.5% of its value, a reflection of the effect the outbreak is having on the global economy. Amidst the bloodbath, one specific group of stocks is holding up. These are the drug companies those infected, the public at large and investors are hoping can halt the virus from spreading any further. Gilead Sciences (GILD) is among those leading the search for a treatment and is currently being rewarded by the market. In contrast to the broader market, GILD stock is up 23% year-to-date.

Remdesivir, one of the company’s existing drugs which was previously tested as a possible treatment for Ebola, is being tested as a potential treatment for COVID-19.

Gilead has initiated two Phase III studies in China, one in severe patients and one in patients with moderate symptoms. The trials will have short endpoints (14 days), with the possibility of data readouts in April.

In addition to the coronavirus developments, Gilead also recently announced it will acquire immuno-oncology specialist Forty Seven, in a deal worth $4.9 billion.

While Jefferies’ Michael Yee remains positive on Gilead’s prospects, the 4-star analyst tempers expectations of the drug’s financial impact. “We applaud the efforts – but reiterate while this is fundamentally positive, the financial implications are modest (pricing, one-time use, no tail). Also, in our discussions, while GILD is hopeful on the efficacy, they caution CV should not be a key driver to valuation, since it is mostly humanitarian and unlikely to drive any material benefits. In our math, even at a $1,000-5,000 price x 500,000 estimate points, this is $500 million-$2 billion-plus but GILD has been known to give away aid to regions at cost,” said Yee

Yee reiterated a Buy on Gilead, along with a price target of $76. Gilead’s recent surge means the figure currently implies possible downside of 5.26%. (To watch Yee’s track record, click here)

Maxim Group’s Jason McCarthy is also skeptical of the drug’s ability to drive profit.

The analyst noted, “The coronavirus threat is real, and it should be a concern to the public-no question. However, from an investing perspective, we view remdesivir as a relatively modest opportunity at best for Gilead, and not a growth driver. That said, we are not at all minimizing Gilead’s efforts to rapidly advance remdesivir to see if they have a drug for coronavirus that could save lives. Actually, the company’s efforts are impressive to say the least. We are looking at it purely through the lens of the value proposition and the growth prospects of the company; fundamentals vs. hype.”

Accordingly, McCarthy remains on the fence and maintains his Hold rating. The analyst currently has no price target. (To watch McCarthy’s track record, click here)

The Street’s take on the virus fighter is currently split almost evenly down the middle. 9 Buys, 9 Holds and 1 Sell add up to a Moderate Buy consensus rating. The average price target is $75.94 and implies that the analysts see the stock dropping 5.34% from current levels. (See Gilead stock-price forecast on TipRanks)

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