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Why Ariad Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Shares Vaulted Higher

By Sean Williams - Feb 7, 2014 at 2:55PM

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Ariad Pharmaceuticals shares soar following a report that an activist investor wants at least two seats on the company's board. Can this activist investor help turn things around at Ariad, or is today's move more reason for optimists to blow smoke?

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 Ariad Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARIA), a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing therapies to treat cancer, vaulted higher by as much as 16% after a report from Reuters noted that Ariad's second-largest shareholder was seeking two board seats.

So what: According to the report, Sarissa Capital Management, which is Ariad's second-largest shareholder with a 6.2% stake in the company, is seeking at least two seats on the company's board of directors. Ariad's board is made up of eight members, of which three are due for reelection in June, however nominations must be received by Feb. 20. Neither Sarissa Capital nor Ariad provided a comment to Reuters concerning the matter.

Now what: Today's hype is really about the potential for an activist investors to step in and do what's needed to improve shareholder value. Sarissa Capital Management is run by Alex Denner, who at one time was Carl Icahn's right-hand man when it came to health-care investments, so he understands a thing or two about being an activist investor and unlocking shareholder value. Despite the news, I would take today's gains with a grain of salt as the company's only FDA-approved drug Iclusig has a long road of recovery left ahead of it after a worrisome two-year follow-up safety study, and is currently only a last resort treatment for patients with Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

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