Large Insider Buying at Alexion Raises Investors’ Eyebrows

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Most of the large biotech outfits in America have gone into a limbo mode. Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ALXN) fits that bill despite having a $26.5 billion market cap. Is it possible that some real good things are about to happen there?

Alexion recently announced that it hired Paul Clancy to be its chief financial officer, with an effective date of July 31. Clancy had spent more than 15 years at Biogen prior to the announcement. This did help Alexion shares as it was considered a house-cleaning move and came after naming a new head of research and development. In fact, the stock popped more than 9% to $118.00 after the news, but shares have since settled down a bit.

While a new CFO can be a boost, the news of a chief executive officer and other insiders buying more stock can make for an even better news grab.

CEO Ludwig Hantson was shown late on Monday to have purchased over $1.6 million worth of Alexion’s shares.

The Form 4 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission showed that Hantson purchased 10,000 shares of Alexion on June 14. Rather than being an option grant, this was a direct stock purchase. Hantson owns some 38,725 shares after this transaction. The purchase price was listed as $116.72, and that would come to $1.1672 million in raw dollar terms.

As a reminder, open market transactions by officers and directors must be reported to the SEC within two business days of each transaction.

While investors often get spooked about insider selling, there are many reasons that an officer or director might sell stock. It could be part of a planned sale for estate planning or diversification. Maybe the seller needs some cash to buy a house or to do something else. But when an officer buys a stock in the open market, it is generally considered a signal that they feel the shares are undervalued or that the stock should be going higher.

Despite the stock being up after the CEO purchase disclosure, Alexion’s shares were down about 5% so far in 2017. They are also down over 40% from the highs of 2015.

While it is good to see a CEO acquire shares, a separate From 4 filing from last week showed that Baker Bros. Advisors spent $156 million to acquire 1,348,955 shares at a purchase price of $116.32. That put the firm’s indirect ownership up at 8,191,646 Alexion shares.

Christopher Coughlin, a director of Alexion, also purchased 2,000 shares at $117.10 on June 15. He now holds 6,333 direct shares.

The $25.5 billion market cap is against 2016 revenues of $3.08 billion. Thomson Reuters has consensus revenue estimates of $3.47 billion in 2017, $4.02 billion in 2018 and almost $4.8 billion in 2019.

Alexion shares were last seen trading up 2.7% at $119.32 Tuesday morning. Their 52-week trading range is $96.18 to $145.42. This stock was above $190 back in 2015 and in part of 2015, but it was down at $25.00 as recently as 2010.

Thomson Reuters has a consensus analyst price target of $155.00, and the highest analyst target price on all of Wall Street is $180.