Are Biotech Stocks Located in Ireland Top Buyout Candidates?

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St. Patrick’s Day may have come and gone for this year, but some of the biotechnology stocks that are domiciled in Ireland might just be getting ready for the party. Horizon Pharmaceuticals has announced that it plans to acquire privately held Vidara for a reported price tag of $660 million. Horizon said the resulting company, Horizon Pharma PLC, would be 26% owned by shareholders of Vidara, which has operations in Ireland and the United States.

Some of the tax benefits extended to companies that do business and are located in Ireland could prove very tempting. That is especially so if the companies based in Ireland had a strong product or pipeline that could prove attractive to a potential suitor. In a new research comment, the analysts at biotech boutique shop Leerink highlighted six Ireland-based firms that could be very tempting targets for large biotech and pharmaceutical companies.

Alkermes PLC (NASDAQ: ALKS) is a top name that many on Wall Street for years have thought to be an acquisition target. The company was confident that its long-acting version of Ablify, which is currently in Phase 3 trials, would be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The plan is to submit the New Drug Application (NDA) in the second half of this year. The Thomson/First Call price target on the stock is $49.30. Shares closed Tuesday at $46.70.

Amarin Corp. PLC (NASDAQ: AMRN) has struggled and could very well be reaching out for help from a suitor. Amarin plans to burn through less than $80 million this year. It ended last year with more than $191 million in the bank, so it is not like the company is in dire straits. Management believes it can get to cash flow positive before Amarin runs out of money. The company is trying to get its newly launched fish-oil drug Vascepa off the ground. The consensus price target for the stock is $2.35. Amarin closed Tuesday at $1.75.

Endo Health Solutions Inc. (NASDAQ: ENDP) announced last year that it was buying Canada-based Paladin Labs for $1.5 billion. The stock reacted favorably as Wall Street loved the deal, which looks to be accretive to earnings in the first year. The company’s top line has been under pressure over the past few quarters, due to declining sales of its key drugs. The consensus price target is $69.94. Endo closed Tuesday at $74.28.

Jazz Pharmaceuticals PLC (NASDAQ: JAZZ) expects adjusted earnings for 2014 in the range of $8.00 to $8.25 per share. The guidance excludes share-based compensation expense, which is expected in the range of $65 million to $70 million. The consensus currently stands at $7.76 per share. The company will submit a supplemental biologics license application to the FDA later this quarter to allow intravenous administration of Erwinaze. Another study for the use of Erwinaze in adolescents and young adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, who are hypersensitive to E. coli-derived asparaginase, is expected to commence enrollment by second quarter 2014. The consensus price target for this top name is $183. Shares ended Tuesday at $154.03.

Shire PLC (NASDAQ: SHPG) repositioned its business in 2013, undertaking a realignment program with strategic focus on rare diseases and greater operational discipline. Shire has drugs for ulcerative colitis and hereditary angioedema in its portfolio. It also has the top-selling Adderall XR for the treatment of ADHD. The company recently suffered a setback when it announced the initiation of a voluntary recall in one batch of Gaucher disease drug Vpriv in the United States. The consensus price target is $180.67. Shire closed Tuesday at $155.65.

Perrigo Co. PLC (NYSE: PRGO) develops, manufactures and distributes over-the-counter (OTC) and generic prescription pharmaceuticals, nutritional products and active pharmaceutical ingredients, and it receives royalties from multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri. The company is the world’s largest manufacturer of OTC health care products for the store brand market and an industry leader in pharmaceutical technologies. Investors receive a tiny 0.4% dividend. The consensus price target is $174.79. Perrigo closed Tuesday at $167.48.

All these stocks are based in Ireland, and all have some very impressive products and extensive operations in the United States or in Europe. Companies looking to extend beyond organic growth, as well as the added benefit of the low corporate taxation in Ireland, may already be eyeing these stocks. The good thing for investors is these names can stand on their own, but any takeover or merger would be an added bonus.

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