Healthcare Review: Idenix Pharmaceuticals, Weight Watchers, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Aveo Oncology, Chelsea Therapeutics Print E-mail
By Staff and Wire Reports   
Friday, 14 February 2014 14:49
U.S. stocks mostly rose on Friday, with major indexes on track for their second straight week of gains as investors were once again willing to overlook some soft economic data stemming from bad weather. U.S. export prices rose 0.2 percent in January, the third straight monthly increase in a potentially positive sign for global economic demand and the outlook for American manufacturers. In the latest data point affected by harsh winter weather, factory production fell 0.8 percent in January, the biggest drop in more than 4-1/2 years. Investors have been willing to forgive soft data of late, attributing weak results to bad weather as opposed to a slowing economy.

In its Q4 13F, activist investor Sarissa Capital discloses it has a 5.05M-share (3.3%) stake in Idenix Pharmaceuticals (IDIX +1.8%). Shares initially jumped on the disclosure,  but have quickly given back some of their gains. Last year, Sarissa took part in a successful proxy battle against Vivus. The firm now has Ariad Pharmaceuticals in its sights.

"Given Weight Watchers’ ($WTW -26.2%) strong brand name and attractive cash flow, offset by its high debt load and sluggish trends, we believe shares should trade at an EV/2014E EBITDA multiple of 11x, relatively in line to other mid-cap healthy lifestyle firms (GNC, HAIN, UNFI, VSI), generating our $19 PT," says Wedbush's Kurt Frederick (it was previously $26)."We are sharply lowering 2014 estimates to reflect current trends and introducing 2015 estimates for revenue of $1.3 billion and EPS of $1.50, reflecting lower membership base entering the year, offset by a lower cost structure."

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ($NASDAQ:ALNY) L Analyst Alan Carr reiterates his Buy rating and boosts the price target to $94 from $65 following last night's Q4 results. "Management reiterated plans to bring at least 6-7 candidates into clinical development by YE15, including two into Phase 3 by YE14," he notes. "Key milestones this year include data from the ALN-TTRsc Phase 2, ALN-AT3 Phase 1, and ALN-TTR02 Phase 2 OLE trials, all in 4Q14.""The Jan 2014 Sanofi collaboration provides a large cash infusion, allowing a much larger R&D effort that may accelerate time to commercialization of multiple programs across multiple territories."

Aveo Oncology ($AVEO) and Japan's Astellas Pharma ($ALPMF) are ending their agreement to develop Aveo's lead drug Tivozanib and they will halt a Phase II study testing its use in colon cancer. The move comes after Aveo said in January that it would end a similar-stage trial of Tivozanib as a treatment for breast cancer because of poor enrollments. In July, the drug was rejected as a treatment for kidney cancer because of inconsistent study results.

Responding to the wild gyrations in its stock today, Chelsea Therapeutics ($CHTP +2%) says no decision regarding Northera NDA has been received from the FDA as of late this morning.

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