Even the best firms on Wall Street sometimes lose their analysts, and when that happens they are forced to suspend their coverage on stocks until they can replace the talent. Oppenheimer has replaced its biotechnology and specialty pharmaceutical team and has returned to the forefront with a list of top stocks to buy. Here is the list of new stocks to buy and coverage resumption of others at Oppenheimer.
Questcor Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOR) has provided investors with a roller coaster ride. Concern over reimbursement for their very expensive Acthar prescription drug, and investor lawsuits had led to a bear raid on the company. The company was one of the most heavily shorted stocks on the Nasdaq, according to the most recent data set from May 31st 2013, with 22.15M shares short out of a float of 53.6M share (41%). Oppenheimer is very positive on Acthar’s impressive growth potential and has a $57 price target on the stock. The Thomson/First Call estimate is at $51. Investors are paid a 2.2% dividend.
Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ICPT) went public in October of 2012 in the $17 range, and it has been as high as $42.67. It is now trading in the high $30s. Oppenheimer believes the next 12 months will be transformative for Intercept as the company reports phase 3 data in primary biliary cirrhosis and investors begin to recognize the value contained in the company‘s earlier-stage clinical programs. Oppenheimer has a $60 price target on the stock, while the consensus target is much lower at $48. A move to the target price would be a gain of over 50% for investors.
Antares Pharma Inc. (NASDAQ: ATRS) may be the stock with the biggest upside potential. With one solid drug approval in Otrexup with a January 2014 launch, and a new self-administered Testosterone product upcoming, the pipeline is solid. Antares is constantly rumored to be a buyout candidate, with Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) the leading name as an acquirer. Oppenheimer has a $6 price target on the stock, though the consensus stands at $5. Trading to the target would be a gain of almost 50% for investors.
ViroPharma Inc. (NASDAQ: VPHM) makes drugs designed to treat unusual diseases that affect small patient populations. For example, one of its drugs, Cinryze, aims to prevent bodily swelling or painful attacks in teenagers and adults with hereditary angioedema, a genetic immune disorder. Last week, ViroPharma said its maribavir drug, which is designed to treat patients who develop a type of herpes virus and also have a condition called impaired cell-mediated immunity, received orphan drug designation in Europe. The stock is also another rumored takeover candidate. Oppenheimer has a $35 price target but the consensus is at $34.
Oppenheimer also started three names at a Perform rating. One of the stocks, Zogenix (NASDAQ: ZGNX), is awaiting key U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for a timed released hydrocodone product called Zohydro. Despite a negative panel review last year, and issues over not being tamper resistant, Oppenheimer believes the drug has a better chance for approval after the FDA’s decision to allow generic Opana ER, which does not have tamper resistant properties as the branded version does.
The Medicines Company (NASDAQ: MDCO) and Endo Health Solutions Inc. (NASDAQ: ENDP) were also started at Perform. Oppenheimer likes the prospects for both companies, but feels that at current trading levels they may be fully valued, pending new product launches.
It is important to remember that many stocks are considered takeover candidates, and the hype surrounding most should be discounted. However, large pharmaceutical companies are facing the loss of many revenue-generating branded drugs in the next few years. Acquiring companies with strong pipelines is often far less expensive than funding research and development.