How to Profit From Every Biotech Buyout

by James Brumley | August 27, 2013 9:49 am

In November of last year, I explained how in the long run the best biotech investment[1] may simply be a biotech ETF like the Biotech SPDR (XBI[2]) or the iShares NASDAQ Biotechnology Index ETF (IBB[3]).

Owning such an ETF not only circumvents the headache of keeping tabs on a particular company’s drug developments, but also lets you broadly participate in the success of a recession-proof industry.

Plus, now you can add another reason to that list … a reason I didn’t mention last November, but have to point out now thanks to Amgen (AMGN[4]): You can get the rewards that come with every major buyout, without all the risk.

On the off chance you’ve not heard, Amgen announced this weekend that it intends to acquire Onyx Pharmaceuticals (ONXX[5]) for $10.4 billion, or $125 per share. The offer was a 7% premium at the time, and shares closed up 5.6%, at $123.49, on Monday following the announcement.

Though Onyx currently has two drugs on the market, five drugs being tested and a total of fifteen different trials underway, there’s little doubt as to which Onyx-developed therapy Amgen was most excited to bring under its umbrella: Kyprolis, a treatment for multiple myeloma.

Some experts believe the blood cancer therapy could generate as much as $3 billion in annual sales. Add in other drugs in Onyx Pharmaceuticals’ portfolio — like Nexavar (for liver cancer) and a couple other cancer treatments in the pipeline — and Amgen could find its new drug library will eventually be worth an additional $4 billion in sales.

It couldn’t have come at a better time for Amgen either. While Amgen’s product sales grew 9% last year to $16.6 billion, sales of its key anemia drugs are slowing, while sales of its other drugs have been categorized as disappointing.

So how enthusiastic were Amgen investors about the deal? Enough to bid AMGN up 7.7% for the day.

Relative newcomers to the world of investing (and especially newcomers to the world of biotech) will think nothing of the fact that shares of both the buyee and the buyer popped on the news. After all, the combination of two similar companies should create a synergy, and they’re both better off by working together.

Investors who’ve been around the block more times than they’d care to admit, however, will recall a time when an acquisition didn’t push stocks of both parties up. Only the company being acquired saw its shares spike. The acquiring company, if anything, saw its shares move lower because investors didn’t care to see that organization lay out the cash needed to do the deal, even if it was win-win.

Yes indeed, times have changed. The new risk-vs.-reward paradigm for biotech buyouts is usually no worse than a win/breakeven outcome, and very often — as was the deal between Amgen and Onyx — it’s a win/win for shareholders of both companies.

In fact, now it’s not tough to find cases where there were no losing parties in a biotech acquisition deal. If anything, it’s tough to find a biotech M&A situation where anyone suffered a setback.

Take the Bayer (BAYRY[6]) purchase of Conceptus in April of this year as an example. That deal pushed Conceptus shares 20% higher, and Bayer shares didn’t budge.

The same goes for the mid-2012 buyout of Amylin. Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY[7]) offered what ended up being a 10% premium for Amylin shares at the time, but the offer was actually 50% stronger than the Bristol-Myers’ original bid from that February. Rather than send Squibb shares lower as the price tag for Amylin moved higher, the market continued to bid Bristol Myers Squibb shares up along with Amylin’s stocks.

Yes, there are plenty more. When Amgen announced it was paying a 33% premium for Micromet in January of last year, Amgen shareholders didn’t bat an eye; the stock was a rock. In 2011 when Teva Pharmaceuticals (TEVA[8]) announced it was paying a 39% premium to acquire Cephalon, not only did Cephalon shares jump, but Teva shares were up more than 5% just a few days later.

You get the idea. The list goes on.

The point is: Given how there’s rarely a losing party with any major biotech acquisitions these days, it’s no wonder funds like the iShares NASDAQ Biotechnology Index ETF and Biotech SPDR are up more than 110% and 100% for the past two years while the S&P 500 is only up 40% for the same timeframe.

The biotech ETFs were nudged a little higher not just from one of those deals, but from all of those deals. Add it to the list of reasons why you should simply stick with biotech funds.

As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

  1. the best biotech investment:
  2. XBI:
  3. IBB:
  4. AMGN:
  5. ONXX:
  6. BAYRY:
  7. BMY:
  8. TEVA:

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