At The Motley Fool, we poke plenty of fun at Wall Street analysts and their endless cycle of upgrades, downgrades, and “initiating coverage at neutral.” Today, we’ll show you whether those bigwigs actually know what they’re talking about. To help, we’ve enlisted Motley Fool CAPS to track the long-term performance of Wall Street’s best and worst.
Maxim Integrated Products Inc. (NASDAQ:MXIM) ditches Dendreon Corporation (NASDAQ:DNDN)
Jennerex. Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ONXX). Amgen, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMGN). Bristol Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE:BMY). The field of companies racing to develop virus-based cancer cures just keeps growing and growing, as biotechs big and small try to find the best way to train the body’s immune system to fight cancer. But according to one analyst at least, one of the early leaders of this movement toward such “oncolytic immunotherapies” is starting to fall behind.
This morning, analysts at Maxim Group announced they’re ready to throw in the towel once and for all on Dendreon Corporation, maker of the once-revolutionary Provenge vaccine against prostate cancer. They’re downgrading all the way to “sell” and assigning a $4 price target to the stock, which currently fetches more than $6 — suggesting that the stock could lose as much as 36% of its value over the next 12 months.
But are they right?
One word: Yes
Admittedly, Maxim’s advice appears to fly in the face of the recent upgrade that rival i-banker Cantor Fitzgerald gave Dendreon last month. Arguing that despite competition from other oncolytic researchers — such as the others named above, and even more closely from Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ)‘s Zytiga — “expectations for Provenge are too low,” Cantor upped its target price on Dendreon to $7 last month, even as it held its rating at “neutral.”
And yet, it seems to me that Maxim has the better of this argument. Remember that Dendreon itself publicly declared it needs to make $500 million in annual sales in order to just break even on its business — much less earn real profit. Problem is, Dendreon was originally expected to approach this goal in 2013. Today, though, most analysts agree that Dendreon’s unlikely to book more than $363 million in revenue this year, and won’t pass the $500 million mark before 2016. In the fast-moving world of biotech, that’s an awful lot of breathing room that Dendreon has given its competitors.
Meanwhile, Dendreon itself remains incapable of earning a profit. It’s cut its rate of cash burn substantially, granted, yet still ran $118 million negative on free cash flow over the past 12 months. Considering that Dendreon has already amassed nearly $200 million more debt than cash on its balance sheet, that’s an uncomfortable position for the company to be in. In short, Maxim’s right — and Dendreon’s a sell.