Up, up and acquired

Winners, losers in biotech stock tiers in 1Q15

For the first time since 1Q14, none of the biotech market cap segments fell. While the $200-$499 million tier treaded water, all other segments finished in the black, led by the $1-$4.9 billion segment.

Large caps were up 8.3%, led by two acquisition targets. Pharmacyclics Inc., top in the tier, had already gained 89% in the quarter on revenues, an expanded label and positive data for cancer drug Imbruvica ibrutinib before AbbVie Inc. announced it would acquire the biotech for $21 billion. The deal pushed Pharmacyclics up 110% for the quarter.

Next among large caps was gastrointestinal play Salix Pharmaceuticals Ltd., which Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. acquired for $11.4 billion on April 1. Salix ended the quarter up 50% after receiving competing bids from Valeant and Endo International plc. Valeant ended 1Q up 39%, while Endo closed up 24%.

Only three large caps ended the quarter down, and none of those stocks - Actelion Ltd., Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. - were off more than 6%.

Actelion was among Swiss stocks that tumbled in January after the Swiss National Bank said it would no longer peg the franc to the euro. Actelion lost 19% in two days but rebounded to finish down 2% in the quarter, which also saw Japan approve Opsumit macitentan for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).

Vertex, which finished down less than 1%, fell as much as 9% in February. At least one analyst downgraded the stock from buy to hold after the company reported earnings that beat the consensus but were worse than the prior year's quarter. It rallied in March after FDA granted a label expansion for cystic fibrosis (CF) drug Kalydeco ivacaftor, closing up 13% YTD on March 19 before losing momentum during the sell-off at the

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