Healthcare Business

After Big Cubist Buy, Are These 2 Stocks Next to Be Acquired?

Lee Jackson

Merck & Co. Inc.’s (NYSE: MRK) big jump into the antibiotic space with the purchase of Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CBST), sporting a 35% premium for shareholders, already has many on Wall Street looking for the next acquisition candidates. The antibiotic space is huge, as physicians and the health care community are increasingly concerned that the overprescribing of antibiotics is helping to create new super-bugs that are resistant to current therapies.

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analysts say in a research note that they, like many analysts on Wall Street, think the Merck purchase makes good sense and the company is an ideal buyer for Cubist, as it pushes the pharmaceutical giant into the forefront in the antibiotic space. They also mention two other companies, Achaogen Inc. (NASDAQ: AKAO) and Cempra Inc. (NASDAQ: CEMP), that could be on the radar as acquisition targets.

Achaogen is a clinical-stage bio-pharmaceutical company developing novel antibacterials to treat multidrug resistant (MDR) gram-negative infections. The company recently made a $4 million milestone payment to Isis Pharmaceutical, which was earned on the initiation of a phase 3 study on plazomicin, an aminoglycoside being developed for the treatment of patients suffering from serious MDR, gram-negative bacterial infections. The phase 3 superiority study will compare the efficacy and safety of plazomicin to colistin in patients with bloodstream infections and nosocomial pneumonia caused by carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae.

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While the SunTrust analysts feel that more data are required, and Achaogen is targeting a much smaller market, a niche player added at a reasonable price could be a foot-in-the-door for a larger firm looking to increase antibiotic presence.

SunTrust analysts also think Cempra could be the next takeout candidate, with the firm’s lead program and product solithromycin. The company is expected to release what could be very important clinical data in the first quarter of 2015. We covered the stock last month as a biotech catalyst stock that could have tremendous upside.

The Thomson/First Call consensus price target for Achaogen is $19.29. Its shares closed Monday at $10.35. Cempra has a consensus price target of $19.50, and shares closed trading on Monday at $16.06, up over 8%.

While there is no guarantee that either of these companies is acquired, one thing is for sure, the threat of super-bugs is real, and the medical community and big pharmaceutical companies know it is a huge business opportunity. If the best way to expand presence is to buy, large pharmaceutical firms have the deep pockets and stock to do it.

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