When traders look at a stock at its highs and imagine what would be had they gotten in at the lows, the thought that invariably gets triggered is “At the next time it falls back down I’m buying.” Much easier said than done, however, because at the lows, sentiment is so low that the fear is that price will keep falling. Sometimes that happens, but more often than not the price regresses back to the mean and gains can be made — as long as the fundamentals are sound, that is.
2016 was hard for biotech stocks, some more than others. The iShares NASDAQ Biotechnology Index (NASDAQ: IBB) is down over 20% for the year. This after falling sharply in January and being range-bound for the rest of 2016. We’re now right in the middle of that range, though many biotechs are right at their lows. Here are three that present a buy low opportunity. These exclude stocks that deserved to reach new lows on trial failures or other negative fundamental developments in their pipelines.
Sarepta Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: SPRT) was the talk of the town in 2016. Perhaps no other U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decision got as much press as the saga surrounding Sarepta’s Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) drug Eteplirsen and the nearly endless back and forth, complete with delays, surrounding the agency’s final decision. In the end though, Eteplirsen got the conditional go-ahead marketing approval.
While Sarepta is not technically at its 52-week lows, it really has to be counted as two different stocks. One pre-approval, the other post. Post-approval Sarepta is indeed at its lows, having fallen 57% since reaching post-approval highs. The stock is now lower than it was pre-approval in January as well.
The main issue here is insurance coverage, as insurance companies do not want to cover the $300,000 a year drug, given that there is no hard evidence that it actually works. Why and how can Sarepta recover? Expect a political battle over Eteplirsen coverage, perhaps even reaching Capitol Hill at some point in 2017. DMD is devastating enough that insurance companies refusing coverage for the drug would be risking a public relations nightmare. Any word that any insurance company will cover Eteplirsen could bring Sarepta flying higher, if not to highs of $63, then at least somewhere in the mid $40s or so.
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (NYSE: TEVA) closed its acquisition of the generics unit of Allergan PLC (NYSE: AGN) back in August. 2017 will be the first year that investors will be able to see the full impact of the acquisition on its top line. Meanwhile, as Teva has made itself the undisputed leader of generics globally, it has gotten mired in corruption charges, for which it has settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for $519 million.
The charges allege paying off various government officials for business in different countries. It is doubtful that Teva is the only firm that does this. It’s hard to think of a single major firm in any industry that does not contribute to political campaigns in the hope of currying favor with regulators in some way. It’s just that there are relatively more accepted ways to curry favor and there are, well, others. Novartis has gotten into trouble for similar reasons in the recent past, but investors tend to have short memories regarding these sorts of scandals, and Teva will likely be forgiven, water under the bridge, and the show must go on.
The fact is, Teva stock is trading lower now than it was in the throes of the 2008 crisis, when annual bottom line earnings came it at just over $600 million. 2015 earnings were $1.6 billion, and Teva is on pace to beat that for 2016. A fall on struggles, worries about higher debt levels and negative sentiment on the SEC settlement warrant a fall in the stock, but to these levels not seen since 2007 is a bit much. Teva is set for a recovery, if for no other reason than regression to the mean.
Oramed Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ORMP) is down close to 30% for the year, having been negatively affected by the Novo Nordisk A/S (NYSE: NVO) decision to scrap its own oral insulin program back in late October. Oramed is developing its own version of oral insulin and has so far seen successful results up to Phase 2B on 180 patients.
The Novo Nordisk decision may have been taken as a negative for Oramed, but that decision actually may have been related to pipeline conflict considerations rather than a statement on the diabetes giant’s faith in the candidate itself. After all, Novo’s Phase 2 results were also positive, but it decided to scrap the program anyway, perhaps due to a conflict with its own subcutaneous insulin products in the event of an approval.
Oramed is moving on to Phase 2b with an oral GLP-1 formulation in 2017, and positive results there could have the effect of reinforcing investor confidence in its technology despite Novo Nordisk pulling out of the insulin side of the equation. Novo Nordisk leaving the space could be a positive for Oramed, given that it will now have no major competitor for oral insulin, in the event that its candidate ORMD 0801 makes it to market.
By Mayer Winkler