After Pfizer and Moderna, AstraZeneca-Oxford reported (preliminary) late-stage results for their COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Based on logistics and pricing, Astra’s vaccine has clear advantages.
However, with results for other (major) countries still awaited and considering past safety concerns, it is pre-mature to decide if Astra has won this race. Also, considering the firm’s ‘no-profit’ commitment as long as the pandemic is on, any major earnings uptick seems unlikely.
Companies: AstraZeneca PLC
Compared with H1 20, AstraZeneca witnessed a pertinent slowdown in Q3 sales growth. Growth was again driven by Oncology and aptly supported by the New CVRM, while R&I was weak. However, the recovery in profitability was sustained – especially on the back of sales & marketing activities of the earlier years yielding impressive results. While material Chinese sales exposure is a critical advantage, especially at a time when COVID-19 cases are again spiking in the developed world, Astra seems expensive at current levels.
Companies: AZN ETX POLX
AstraZeneca (an inexperienced vaccine player) has emerged as top contender in the COVID-19 vaccine race, post its deal with Oxford University. The potential vaccine’s much-lower price and multiple out-licensing deals, resulting in major capacities being secured, have been two critical milestones and, recently, the US President announced plans to fast-track Astra’s vaccine approval before the November 2020 US elections. Interestingly, Astra is also a minority shareholder in Moderna (7.65% stake) – which is another (US) front-runner in the COVID-19 vaccine race.
AstraZeneca reported a healthy Q2 growth, outperforming closer peers like Novartis and Roche. This healthy performance was largely driven by oncology (c.45% of group sales). Moreover, the group is a front-runner in the COVID-19 vaccine race. While there were some profitability improvements as well, there’s more ground to cover vis-à-vis both peers and the group’s own historic highs. Also, apart from oncology and New CVRM, the group lacks (growth) catalysts for other areas, accounting for >40% of sales.
According to market rumours, AstraZeneca informally approached Gilead for a possible merger last month – if the deal goes ahead, it would be the biggest transaction in pharma industry to date. However, the strategic rationale for the deal appears limited – AstraZeneca and Gilead have limited overlap in businesses and a merger would hardly generate any synergies – and, thus, we believe that this fusion is unlikely. Political interference could also crop up if the rumours are true.
Despite being China-heavy, AstraZeneca had a superb start to 2020, with Q1 sales CER growth of 17%. While Oncology was once again the key growth driver, reasonable (but possibly transient) support came from ‘Respiratory + Immunology’, and New CVRM. However, a key question is – how long can Astra sustain this momentum, especially when COVID-related forward buying retreats? Moreover, the restoration of healthy group-level operating margins is still missing, thereby making us sceptical of the group’s (extremely-)high price multiples.
Novacyt (NCYT.L): Agreements struck with Bruker and Yourgene | Polarean Imaging (POLX.L): Change of General Meeting Venue | Silence Therapeutics (SLN.L): Strategic collaboration with AstraZeneca (AZN.L)
Companies: NCYT POLX SLN AZN
AstraZeneca’s Q4 results were disappointing, both from a sales growth and profitability perspective. While Oncology and CVRM (to some extent) remain the key growth drivers, growing competition is concerning. Moreover, with the 2019-nCoV scare, near-term business visibility has hit a low. However, the group still has one of the largest oncology pipelines in our coverage and is awaiting/applying for/in major new indications/geographies in Oncology and even CVRM, which should give a push to sales growth.
AstraZeneca (AZN.L): FDA accepts NDA submission for selumetinib | Beximco Pharma: First quarter results show continued growth | Tissue Regenix Group plc (TRX.L): Update on loan agreement |
Companies: AZN BXP TRX
Research Tree provides access to ongoing research coverage, media content and regulatory news on AstraZeneca PLC.
We currently have 190 research reports from 11
Oxford University and AstraZeneca announced the first interim analysis from the Phase III study of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which was found to be 70% effective in preventing COVID-19. This follows similar announcements from Moderna, and Pfizer/BioNTech in the previous two weeks, and the caveats we mentioned at the time remain the same. While all of these results have been highly encouraging, we reiterate that they do not diminish the urgent need for COVID-19 treatments and testing, which will be required for years to come. We consider Synairgen, Avacta, genedrive, Omega Diagnostics and Open Orphan to offer good buying opportunities.
Companies: AVCT ODX SNG GDR ORPH
Venture Life has developed significant momentum through 2020, reflected in the strong share performance over the year. Building on this momentum, the company has announced it is conditionally raising £34m via an equity raise to help it secure additional M&A opportunities. At this time, Venture Life has identified three opportunities, which we estimate could deliver significant earnings accretion if all are completed. We have updated our forecasts to reflect the raise but at this time have left our underlying assumptions unchanged. We expect Venture Life to maintain the momentum it has developed, supported by the proposed raise and M&A opportunities; we re-iterate our Buy recommendation.
Companies: Venture Life Group Plc
ReNeuron, a UK-based stem-cell therapy developer, has announced today a fundraising of up to £17.5m (gross) through the means of a placing, subscription and open offer. The Company has also announced its FY’21E interim results as well as the latest data from its lead candidate hRPC in the ongoing Phase I/IIa clinical trial for Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). The additional funding aims to provide liquidity for the next 18 months, and through key clinical development milestones for the hRPC programme and exosome collaborations. **** As joint broker to ReNeuron, we are restricted and can therefore provide factual comment only. Shareholder approval for the transaction will be sought at the General Meeting to be held on the 11th December 2020 ****
Companies: ReNeuron Group plc
ReNeuron Group (RENE.L): Interim results
President Trump likes to project himself as a highly successful businessman, but surprisingly little is known about his true financial position. Various articles, including a 2016 in-depth analysis by The Wall Street Journal, have speculated about his income and asset base. All sorts of claims and counter-claims have been made about his wealth – by Trump himself, pitching his fortune at some $9bn, and by journalist Timothy O'Brien, suggesting that it is as “low” as $150m-$250m. It is doubtful whether we shall ever know the truth, but we can use Trump’s UK corporate filings to gain an insight into his businesses in Scotland.
Companies: AVO ARBB ARIX CLIG DNL FLTA ICGT PCA PIN PHP RECI STX SCE TRX SHED VTA YEW
EKF has confirmed it expects a strong Q4 from both the core business and ongoing demand for the Primestore MTM sample collection device. As a result, FY20 performance is now expected to comfortably exceed market expectations, which have already been upgraded several times through the year. We upgrade our FY20 EBITDA forecasts by a further 6% to £24.4m and look forward to further updates in due course. EKF is a Best Idea for 2020 and we expect strong momentum to continue.
Companies: EKF Diagnostics Holdings plc
A positive AGM update from CVS this morning, illustrating a continuation of solid trading momentum since the Sept finals. LFL sales in the first four months were ahead by 5.1% vs a stiff 8% comp. This implies an acceleration to 6.3% over Sep-Oct - an excellent showing, reflecting resilience and ongoing self-help to optimise revenue generation. Significantly, this flows through to a healthy EBITDA margin back above 15%. Trading during the current lockdown has not been much impacted and this bodes well for any future restrictions. The balance sheet has further deleveraged. With guidance remaining suspended we hold off reinstating forecasts, but on our illustrative analysis the shares are trading on an FY21/FY22 EV/EBITDA rating of 14x/13x and a P/E of 22x/21x. Given the structural tailwind, underlying momentum and sector M&A at >15x EV/EBITDA, we see scope for rating expansion.
Companies: CVS Group plc
One of the original assumptions in our forecast for Destiny’s first product, XF-73 for the prevention of post-surgical staphylococcal infections, was that it would share the US market with GlaxoSmithKline’s Bactroban Nasal - despite Bactroban Nasal not being approved for this indication. We also referenced Bactroban Nasal’s US price in estimating the price for XF73 in all markets. Bactroban Nasal has now been discontinued in the US, so we adjust some of our modelling for its removal. This has resulted in our valuation increasing.
Companies: Destiny Pharma Plc
Venture Life aims to become a global leader in the self-care branded product market, where there are a number of structural growth drivers. It has a unique and scalable platform to develop, manufacture and distribute products, including its own brands and international customers’ brands. What is already a high margin business is poised to deliver a compelling mixture of top line growth with significant operating leverage. Performance in H1 (EBITDA +347%) highlights the potency of VLG’s model. Acquisitions can also leverage the platform to drive growth, and management has a very strong track record here. On top of this exciting growth play, there is also a chance that its Dentyl dual-action mouthwash could have applications to slow/reduce CV19 transmission, adding to the upside potential.
4D pharma has announced a merger with the Longevity Acquisition Corporation (NASDAQ: LOAC), a Special Purpose Acquisition Company that provides a NASDAQ listing and $14.6m (gross) of cash for 4D pharma shareholders. The statement notes that this additional capital is expected to extend the current operational runway another 6 months into early Q3 2021 (vs. Q1 2021 previously) providing capital to support the ongoing clinical development of its pipeline. 4D pharma will maintain its AIM listing and will remain headquartered in the UK. The merger was agreed at an valuation of £1.10 per 4D pharma ordinary share, representing a 18% premium to last night’s close of £0.93. Post-completion, 4D pharma will issue approx. 19,783,827 new ordinary shares, and 4D pharma shareholders will own approx. 86.9% of the issued share capital of the enlarged group. The merger is expected to become effective in early 2021, subject to shareholder meetings for both companies, and approval of all necessary US / SEC documentation
Companies: 4d Pharma PLC
RUA have announced an earlier than expected update on the testing of its Elast-Eon-coated tri-leaflet artificial heart valve from its pilot pulsatile flow program. This testing is meant to simulate not just the flow of blood through the valve, but the viscous patterns that occur during the opening and closing of the valve, in the simulation of typical natural conditions. Not only have the minimum ISO Standard performance requirements been easily surpassed, but there were indications of reproducibility and ease of manufacture.
Companies: RUA Life Sciences Plc
A number of REITs have the ability to thrive in current market conditions and thereafter. Not only do they hold assets that will remain in strong demand, but they have focus and transparency. The leases and underlying rents are structured in a manner to provide long visibility, growth and security. Hardman & Co defined an investment universe of REITs that we considered provided security and “safer harbours”. We introduced this universe with our report published in March 2019: “Secure income” REITs – Safe Harbour Available. Here, we take forward the investment case and story. We point to six REITs, in particular, where we believe the risk/reward is the most attractive.
Companies: AGY ARBB ARIX BUR CMH CLIG DNL HAYD NSF PCA PIN PXC PHP RE/ RECI SCE SHED VTA
Successful trials in Tesco have led to the W7 brand being distributed in a significant number of additional stores, including Tesco Extras. Performance in Wilko of its Technic and Body Collection brands has been ahead of expectations, leading to additional gift ranges being stocked there too. These distribution gains bode well for incremental sales/profit next year, and underline the appeal of the group’s value-for-money on-trend brands. Valuation is undemanding, particularly with the added attraction of a 6.4% dividend yield.
Companies: Warpaint London PLC
Beximco Pharma (BXP.L): Notification of AGM | Evgen Pharma (EVG.L): First patient enrolled in COVID-19 trial
Companies: Beximco Pharmaceuticals Limited Sponsored GDR RegS (BXP:LON)Evgen Pharma Plc (EVG:LON)
Last year, Venture Capital Trusts raised the second-highest amount since their launch in 1995, according to the Association of Investment Companies. This is good news for smaller companies seeking growth finance. Changes to pension regulations mean that VCTs are expected to continue to attract investors. Individual qualifying companies can receive up to £10m from VCT investors.
Companies: KEYS NBI MPM PTY BOO W7L