Why Versartis Inc. Shares Briefly Popped

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Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of Versartis (NASDAQ: VSAR  ) , a wholly clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing therapies to treat metabolic diseases and endocrine disorders, popped as much as 12% after exiting its post-IPO quiet period and getting coverage initiated on the company by four major research firms. Shares have since given up most of their gains and are now up around 3%.

So what: The quiet period for IPOs is 25 days following their debut, and it's a period marked by a company issuing no earnings forecasts and research firms issuing no coverage. Once that 25 days is up, however, it's game on as you can tell. Starting coverage on Versartis today is Canaccord Genuity with a "buy" rating and a $36 price target; Cowen & Co. with an "outperform" rating; Citigroup with a "buy" rating and $60 price target; and an "overweight" ranking and $79 price target from Morgan Stanley.

Now what: Before you get too excited about these lofty price targets, consider that Citigroup and Morgan Stanley were the joint book-running managers for Versartis' IPO, Cowen & Co. was acting as lead manager, and Canaccord Genuity was its acting co-manager, so it's no wonder these companies are all so optimistic on Versartis. Ultimately, analyst ratings tend to be very short-term drivers of a company's share price and they rarely affect the long-term investment thesis of a company. I would certainly qualify today's coverage initiations as falling into that broad category of extremely short-term news-driven events.

What shareholder will really want to focus on is VRS-317, the company's only development-stage therapy to treat growth hormone deficiency in adults and children. To date, VRS-317 has only made it through a phase 1 study in adult patients and has a phase 1/2 pediatric patient trial currently enrolling, so we're readying for the meat and potatoes of the therapies' efficacy so to speak. There could be a large market for HGH-deficiency meds, so this is what prospective investors will want to focus on instead of the analyst coverage parade.

Versartis shares may have jumped notably today, but they'll likely have a hard time keeping pace with this top stock in 2014
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Sean Williams

A Fool since 2010, and a graduate from UC San Diego with a B.A. in Economics, Sean specializes in the healthcare sector and in investment planning topics. You'll usually find him writing about Obamacare, marijuana, developing drugs, diagnostics, and medical devices, Social Security, taxes, or any number of other macroeconomic issues.

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8/28/2015 4:00 PM
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