A new year, a new addition to the stock portfolio – what can make more sense than that? The right time to buy, of course, is when stocks are priced at the bottom. Buying low and selling high may be a bit hackneyed, but it’s true, and truth has staying power.
But the markets are up. The NASDAQ rose 43% in 2020, and the S&P 500 showed a gain of 16%. With a market environment like that, finding stocks that are caught in the doldrums is harder than it looks. That’s where the Wall Street pros can lend a hand.
We used TipRanks’ database to pinpoint three stocks that fit a profile: a share price that has dropped over 30% in the last 12 months, but with at least double-digit upside potential, according to analysts. Not to mention each has earned a Moderate or Strong Buy consensus rating.
We will start with Esperion, a company that specializes in therapies for the treatment of elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels – a major factor contributing to heart disease. The company’s main product, bempedoic acid, is now available in tablet form under the brand names Nexletol and Nexlizet.
In February 2020, both Nexletol and Nexlizet were approved as oral treatments to lower LDL-C. Bempedoic acid remains in clinical trials of its efficacy in risk reduction for cardiovascular disease. The trial, called CLEAR Outcomes, is a large-scale, long-term study, tracking more than 14,000 patients with top-line data expected in the second half of 2022. The study covers 1,400 locations in 32 countries around the world.
Esperion shares peaked last February, after the FDA approvals, but since then, the stock has declined. Shares are down 65% since their peak. Along with the drop in share value, the company showed a fall in revenue from Q2 to Q3, with the top line collapsing from $212 million to $3.8 million.
Since the Q3 report, Esperion announced pricing on a $250 million offer of senior subordinated notes, at 4%, due in 2025. The offering gives the company a boost in available capital for further work on its development pipeline and its marketing efforts for bempedoic acid.
Chad Messer, covering ESPR for Needham, sees the note offering as a net positive for Esperion.
“We believe this cash position will be sufficient to support Esperion through 2021 and to profitability in 2022… We believe this financing should help put to rest concerns regarding Esperion’s balance sheet. Despite a challenging launch for NEXLETOL and NEXLIZET, product growth has continued in 3Q against the backdrop of a contracting LDL-C market. This growth trajectory suggests potential for a rapid acceleration when conditions improve,” Messer wrote.
To this end, Messer rates ESPR shares a Strong Buy, and his price target, at $158, suggests the stock has room for huge growth this year – up to 481% from current levels. (To watch Messer’s track record, click here)
Overall, Esperion has 6 recent reviews on record, with a breakdown of 5 Buys and 1 Hold to give the stock a Strong Buy rating from the analyst consensus. The shares, trading at $27.16, have an average price target of $63.33, implying a one-year upside of 133%. (See ESPR stock analysis on TipRanks)
Intercept Pharma (ICPT)
Liver disease is a serious health threat, and Intercept Pharma is focused on developing treatments for some of the more dangerous chronic liver conditions, including nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and primary biliary cholangitis (PBC). Intercept has a research pipeline based on FXR, a regulator of bile acid pathways in the hepatic system.
FXR’s action affects not just the bile acid metabolism, but also the glucose and lipid metabolisms, and inflammation and fibrosis around the liver. The lead compound, obeticholic acid (OCA), is an analog of the bile acid CDCA, and as such can take a role in the FXR pathways and receptors implicated in chronic liver disease. Treating liver disease through the FXR biology has direct applications for PBC, and is showing promise treating complications from NASH.
ICPT shares dropped sharply last summer, when the FDA rejected the company’s application to approve OCA for treatment of NASH-related liver fibrosis. This delays the drug’s potential entry to a lucrative market; there is no current treatment for NASH, and the first drug to win approval will have the lead in reaching a market estimated at $2 billion to $5 billion in potential annual sales. The effect on the stock is still felt, and ICPT remains at its 52-week low point.
In reaction, in December of 2020, Intercept announced major changes in top-level management, as CEO and President Mark Pruzanski announced he’s stepping down effective January 1 of this year. He is succeeded by Jerome Durso, formerly the company’s COO, who will also take a post on the Board of Directors. Pruzanski will remain as an advisor, and will hold a director’s position on the company’s Board.
Piper Sandler analyst Yasmeen Rahimi takes a deep dive into Intercept’s continuing efforts to expand applications of OCA and to resubmits its New Drug Application to the FDA. She sees the leadership transition as part of these efforts, and writes, “[We] believe that Dr. Pruzanski’s dedication to transform the liver space is still strong, and that he will continue to guide ICPT’s progress as an advisor and Board member. Additionally, we have had the pleasure of working closely with Jerry Durso and believe that he will transform the company and lead ICPT’s success in growing the PBC market and the path to potential approval and commercial launch of OCA in NASH.”
Rahimi takes a long-term bullish stance on ICPT, giving the stock an Overweight (i.e. Buy) rating and an $82 price target. This figure indicates an impressive 220% upside for the next 12 months. (To watch Rahimi’s track record, click here)
Wall Street is somewhat more divided on the drug maker. ICPT’s Moderate Buy consensus rating is based on 17 reviews, including 8 Buys and 9 Holds. Shares are priced at $25.82, and the average price target of $59.19 suggests an upside potential of 132% for the next 12 months. (See ICPT stock analysis on TipRanks)
Gilead Sciences (GILD)
Gilead has had a year like a firework – fast up and fast down. The gains came in 1H20, when it appeared that the company’s antiviral drug remdesivir would become a prime treatment for COVID-19. By November, however, even though remdesivir had been approved, the World Health Organization (WHO) was recommending against its use, and the COVID vaccines now on the market have made remdesivir irrelevant to the pandemic.
This was only one of Gilead’s recent headwinds. The company has been working, in conjunction with Galapagos (GLPG), on development of filgotinib as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. While the drug received EU and Japanese approval in September 2020, the FDA has withheld approval and Gilead announced in December that it was suspending US development efforts on the drug.
Even so, Gilead retains a diverse and active research pipeline, with over 70 research candidates at varying stages of the development and approval process for a wide range of diseases and conditions, including HIV/AIDS, inflammatory & respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease, and hematology/oncology.
On a positive note, Gilead posted Q3 earnings above estimates, with the top line revenue, of $6.58 billion, beating the forecast by 6% and growing 17% year-over-year. The company updated its full-year 2020 guidance on product sales from $23 billion to $23.5 billion.
Among the bulls is Oppenheimer analyst Hartaj Singh, who gives GILD shares an Outperform (i.e. Buy) rating and $100 price target. Investors stand to pocket a 69% gain should the analyst’s thesis play out. (To watch Singh’s track record, click here)
Backing his stance, Singh writes, “We continue to believe in our thesis of (1) a dependable remdesivir/other medicines business against SARS-CoV flares, (2) a base business (HIV/oncology/HCV) growing low-single digits over the next couple of years, (3) operating leverage providing greater earnings growth, and (4) a 3-4% dividend yield.”
What does the rest of the Street think? Looking at the consensus breakdown, opinions from other analysts are more spread out. 10 Buys, 12 Holds and 1 Sell add up to a Moderate Buy consensus. In addition, the $73.94 average price target indicates 25% upside potential from current levels. (See GILD stock analysis on TipRanks)
To find good ideas for beaten-down stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.