Of all the healthcare companies that took a beating in 2009, Celgene (CELG) seems to be the most undervalued one. Looking at the company’s financial performance and upside potential, it is very hard to understand how a growing biotech company with virtually no potential threat to its leading products is traded at such a low price, a real steal. I typically write about development stage companies, where financial metrics are irrelevant and the focal point is on scientific and medical data. In Celgene’s case, all that is needed is to examine the financial performance and the markets in which the company operates.
In the previous article, I discussed the pharmaceutical industry’s race after approved drugs and late stage agents with proof of concept in humans. I mentioned Rigel’s (RIGL) lead drug, R788, as a likely target for collaboration due to its impressive activity, the huge addressable market and the fact it is an oral drug. For the past year, Rigel’s management has been consistently and rigorously claiming it will have a partnership in place during the first quarter of 2009. Although the company has had more than one opportunity to change this forecast, it stuck by its original statement. For example, when new safety data got published last year and worried investors sent the stock down 50% in two trading sessions, many believed that the imminent deal was not going to materialize. To their surprise, Rigel reassured investors the time frame for a partnership remains intact, explaining that none of the recently published data was actually new to potential partners. Then, Rigel appeared in countless investor conferences, the last of which was only last month, promising investors a licensing deal is forthcoming.
Last week, the company announced it no longer expects to have a deal by the end of March. Instead, it intends to wait until it has results from two ongoing trials, due this summer. Deciding to wait until more data is available makes a lot of sense, providing the data is good. Typically, the further a drug gets in clinical development, the higher its value in the eyes of potential partners. The problem is not the decision itself, but its timing, as this kind of decision could have been made long ago. So what led Rigel’s management to suddenly change its mind after a year of expectations build up?