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.
Good morning, fellow Foolish investors! Let's check in on the early movers in health care today.
Baxter's earnings in line with estimates
Baxter International (NYSE: BAX) announced its financial results for the fourth quarter of 2013 this morning and provided a full-year 2014 outlook as well. Per the release, Baxter's net income decreased by $168 million last quarter compared to a year ago. Consequently, earnings per diluted share dropped to $0.59, compared to $0.89 in the same period last year. This drop is due largely to Baxter's acquisition of Gambro, a global medical technology company developing dialysis treatments.
Looking ahead, Baxter is expecting sales and revenues to jump dramatically this year now that Gambro has been successfully integrated into the company. Specifically, Baxter is giving first-quarter guidance of $1 per diluted share -- nearly double that of last quarter.
What's my take? Baxter is a strong company that is already trading at a substantial bargain compared to its big biotech peers. So with increasing earnings due to fewer costs going forward, I think Baxter will be a winner this year.
Inovio reveals novel immune activator
Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NYSEMKT: INO) announced early this morning that it has developed a novel DNA-based cytokine immune activator called interleukin-33, or IL-33. The compound is to be used in combination with the the company's DNA vaccines to increase their effectiveness. According to Inovio's press release, IL-33 increased the potency and effectiveness of DNA vaccines in a preclinical study. No other details were available yet, however.
So, what does this mean? My view is that this isn't a huge catalyst. Simply put, I take this to mean that the company's DNA vaccines aren't showing strong potency in mid-stage trials by themselves, requiring further immune-boosting compounds.
In case you are new to this story, DNA vaccines are odd in the fact that they work wonders in veterinary applications, but have repeatedly failed in human clinical trials due to weak immunogenicity. Experts working in this area have thus suggested that the promise of DNA vaccines may not be realized until additional prime-boosting vaccinations are developed, which is the entire point of a compound like IL-33. I believe the fact that Inovio is going this route suggests that the mid-stage results for its cervical intraepithelial neoplasias trial may not be impressive enough to move the vaccine into a late-stage registration trial. At a minimum, the fact that they developed an immune activator to be co-administered with their vaccines suggests that there may be a fair amount of clinical testing still ahead before Inovio finally has a commercial product in hand. Stay tuned!
Investors not sure what to make of Keryx offering
Shares of Keryx Biopharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: KERX) were seeing nauseating action in premarket trading this morning, repeatedly moving between positive and negative territory. This back-and-forth action follows on the heels of the company's $90 million stock offering yesterday. Upon the news of the offering hitting the Street, Keryx shares nosedived 10%, finishing the day down a little more than 5% yesterday. Shares have rebounded and are up 4% this morning.
So why are shares seesawing? My view is that investors aren't sure what to make of the company's press release on the matter. It was widely believed that Keryx would find a partner if the company's experimental drug Zerenex for chronic kidney disease pending an FDA approval later this year. Yet the company announced in the offering press release that the "net proceeds from the sale of its common stock to fund pre-launch/launch inventory buildup and pre-commercial/commercial activities related to Zerenex." Without further color from Keryx, this would seem to mean that a partner is not forthcoming, at least not in the immediate future.
By contrast, you could view this as the company strengthening its bargaining position in anticipation of a licensing deal. In effect, Keryx is telling potential partners that they could launch the drug on their own if necessary, so don't try to low-ball us. What's my take? Personally, I think potential partners are being cautious. The commercial success of Zerenex is not a sure thing, and partners may want to see some initial sales figures before making a decent offer. Time will tell how this story plays out.