Why Dendreon Corporation Shares Were Hammered

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 Dendreon (NASDAQOTH: DNDNQ  ) , a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing immunotherapy vaccines to treat cancer, dipped as much as 15% after reporting disappointing first-quarter earnings results, and receiving a subsequent analyst downgrade.

So what: For the quarter, Dendreon delivered product revenue from its late-stage prostate cancer vaccine Provenge, of $68.8 million, up slightly from the $67.6 million it reported in the prior-year period. Net loss was nearly halved, to $36.4 million, or $0.24 per share, from $72 million, or $0.48 per share, following its second restructuring in as many years aimed at cutting costs. It also ended the quarter with approximately $170 million in cash, cash equivalents, and investments. Comparatively, Wall Street expected a wider loss of $0.28 per share, but had been expecting $69.1 million in revenue. In spite of the revenue miss, it was the first quarter of year-over-year sales growth in some time.

In response to its earnings release, Maxim Group downgraded the company to hold from buy, and set a $1 price target on shares. However, if someone can explain Maxim's logic of how a greater-than-50% expected drop in Dendreon's share price equates to a hold rating, I'd love to hear it!

Now what: On the surface, there are snippets of good news for optimists to wrap their hands around, including Dendreon's reduced cash burn rate of $30 million for the quarter, and its improved year-over-year sales. But the reality is that the competition in the advanced prostate cancer space is so fierce that even with a second round of cost cutting, it's not ensured that Dendreon will ever be profitable. Investors and I were both looking for a much bigger boost from Provenge sales given that its top-line targeted accounts surged to 93 in Q1 2014 compared to 54 in Q1 2013. Based on this data, I see no enticing reasons to buy into Dendreon's shares here, and would suggest staying away from this still-sinking ship.

Dendreon may still have a chance to rebound; but even if it does it'll likely be no match for this top stock over the long run
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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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Dendreon Corp CAPS Rating: **