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3 Healthcare Stocks Short-Sellers Are Wrong About

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Short-sellers are betting big that these healthcare stocks will fall. Here's why our top healthcare contributors think their views could be wrong.

Image source: TBIT via Pixabay.

The markets have been declining recently, and several healthcare stocks have been hit especially hard. To take advantage of the market's swoon, short-sellers have placed big bets against a handful of healthcare stocks in the hopes of making a profit if the companies continue to decline in value. That's a fine strategy if those short-sellers have chosen their targets well, but if the companies they've gone short on end up reporting good news, it's possible the shorts could be in for a world of hurt.

Knowing that, we asked three of our top Motley Fool healthcare contributors to highlight a stock that they think the short-sellers have all wrong. Read on to see which companies they chose.

Brian Feroldi: Short-sellers have put a target on the back of specialty generic pharmaceutical manufacturer Teligent (TLGT 0.00%). More than 10 million of the 52 million shares outstanding are currently held short. That high number could be owed to this company's rotten long-term track record on the public markets, considering it spent more than a decade in penny-stock land under its former name, IGI Laboratories. However, the company's stock has been on fire since CEO Jason Grenfell-Gardner took over the corner office in July 2012. Shares are up roughly 500% during his tenure.

So what has this company done to justify the turnaround? Teligent has been investing aggressively to bring generic versions of drugs that lose patent protection to market. The company focuses on drugs in the topical, injectable, complex, and ophthalmic markets. Once a drug from one of these spaces loses patent protection, Teligent makes a copycat, submits it for regulatory approval, and then puts the approved drug on pharmacy shelves at a discount to steal market share. 

This rinse-and-repeat strategy appears to be working well, given that sales have grown from just over $8 million in 2012 to an expected $42 million in 2015. Sales are expected to eclipse $77 million in 2016, which should allow the company to turn a profit.  

Teligent currently counts 12 products on the market that are sold in a few dozen formats, and the company has another 31 products pending regulatory approval. The company estimates that current sales of those products represent a $1.4 billion market opportunity.

If Teligent can continue to roll out new products and meet or exceed its sales estimates, then it wouldn't surprise me to see short-sellers lose a bundle on this stock.

Cheryl Swanson: Short-sellers are sometimes dead wrong about a stock, and one I'm inclined to think they're missing the boat on is Molina Healthcare (MOH 0.57%). Short interest (numbers of shares short divided by shares outstanding) on the health benefits provider is high, at 15.4%, although Molina's recent price move upward has shorts scrambling to cover.

What the shorts are missing is that the latest Medicare rate changes (released on Feb. 19) are a boon for the company. The new rates provide better funding for plans that enroll high numbers of seniors who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid, termed dual-eligible.

With Molina still down significantly from last September, the stock looks attractive. In fact, the company's earnings are expected to quadruple over a four-year period, reaching $5.32 by 2018. The jump is expected because states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare are seeing huge enrollment growth. The big question mark around Molina is Obamacare's future. But so long as Obamacare remains intact, Molina should continue to be a strong growth stock.

Sean Williams: Bias alert! Bias alert! I believe the healthcare stock that Wall Street and investors have all wrong is Exelixis (EXEL 4.17%), a company I currently own in my portfolio. (I did warn you about said bias.)

Why might Wall Street be down on Exelixis? First, stock market volatility has investors fleeing from money-losing companies. Despite clinical success, it's probably going to take some time for Exelixis to be regularly profitable. Secondly, the approval of Bristol-Myers Squibb's cancer immunotherapy Opdivo for second-line metastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC) may be a concern. With Exelixis looking to gain a label expansion of Cometriq to second-line metastatic RCC, Opdivo is, in the meantime, gobbling up second-line market share. Finally, there are still lingering pangs from the failure of its COMET trials examining Cometriq as a treatment for metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer in 2014.

On the flip-side, I see plenty of exciting catalysts on the horizon. The approval of Cotellic in combination with Roche's Zelboraf for BRAF V600E or V600K mutation-positive metastatic melanoma should provide meaningful revenue growth beginning in 2016 for Exelixis. As revenue for the combination therapy climbs, the share of sales and profits will eventually shift toward Roche, but in the meantime Exelixis should enjoy solid top-line improvements, and thus a smaller cash outflow.

I'm also expecting the METEOR results, which in a more in-depth analysis showed a 48% reduction in the rate of disease progression or death relative to Afinitor for Cometriq in a phase 3 second-line metastatic RCC study, to lead to an approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Even if Exelixis manages to garner around 10% market share and takes a back seat to Opdivo, it could easily translate into $250 million in annual revenue within five years.

We're also looking at Cotellic and Cometriq as potentially having immunotherapy combo potential. Exelixis' success is likely to draw big players who'll want to test their immunotherapies with approved cancer treatments.

There's a lot to be excited about here, and I suspect the 24% of outstanding shares held short are going to be sorely disappointed with their skepticism.

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Stocks Mentioned

Molina Healthcare, Inc. Stock Quote
Molina Healthcare, Inc.
$267.13 (0.57%) $1.52
Exelixis, Inc. Stock Quote
Exelixis, Inc.
$22.22 (4.17%) $0.89
Teligent, Inc. Stock Quote
Teligent, Inc.
$0.00 (0.00%) $0.00

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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