Specifically, Intercept said it finished the double-blind phase of their Phase 3 trial in PBC and that “a vast majority of the patients completing the 12 months have opted to cross over to the five year long term safety extension open-label phase of the trial.” In addition, the company obtained positive clinical data in all six Phase 2 clinical trials completed to date in five different indications. Further NASH trials of OCA are also being conducted by its partner Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma in Japan in 2014 with top lines results expected by the end of 2015.
To say the market reacted positively to this news was beyond understatement. Over the course of just a few days, the stock skyrocketed into the $400 range, closing Friday at $445. The company’s market value leaped from $1.4 billion to $8.6 billion in just two days of trading!
With this news, some Wall Street firms finally — albeit a bit late — jumped on the ICPT bandwagon. Citigroup (C) raised its target to $400, stating that its market cap (at the time $5.4 billion) didn’t reach the opportunity for these liver disease treatments. They estimated that the OCA could exceed a $5 billion sales level. Oppenheimer (OPY) also raised its target to $360 while Bank of America/Merrill’s (BAC) target is set at $872, the only one not yet exceeded with the most recent move.
So what to do now if you weren’t a shareholder a few days – or a few hundred points – ago? It’s likely that most analysts who haven’t been covering the stock until now will be somewhat tentative after such a huge runup.
However, I’m still quite bullish on ICPT. While the near term is likely to be somewhat bumpy, I see further gains up to 50% or more over the next twelve months, pushing the stock from current levels into the upper $600s.
There are a few different elements underpinning my view. The trial that was stopped was for one particular treatment, and for only one of a number of uses for its drug. Other trials are also proceeding and further positive results are likely to be forthcoming. Without any significant competitive treatments and a broad applicability for costly liver disease care, there’s tremendous opportunity to own this market. Patent-protected sales for a number of liver-based diseases should easily see Intercept’s solution moving into the ‘blockbuster’ category.
In addition, as I highlighted at year end, acquisition potential is still a strong possibility. While the price tag is certainly higher than it was just a few weeks back, it’s now also a target with a much lower acquisition risk profile given the increased certainty of eventual drug approval, always a trying process, and sales potential.
As a likely dominant vertical player in a lucrative pharma segment, it makes a lot of sense for Intercept to become part of an existing large pharma’s portfolio. As many of the large drug companies struggle with an expanding array of patent expirations but still maintaining large sales forces, newcomers like ICPT can be just the ticket to further their own growth.
We often lament our missed calls, wishing we had that time machine and could just go back a few days and make an investment or two. But sometimes just looking at a recent rocket ship and realizing that its current destination is only the first stop on a much longer journey can prove to be a much more useful – and profitable – endeavor.