Action in biotech and pharmaceutical stocks have heated up lately as a result of acquisitions, partnerships, rumors of acquisitions and partnerships, and FDA approvals. In many instances, the moves in these stocks have been foreshadowed by unusual options activity.
I've taken positions in four stocks within the sector that have recently set off unusual options activity alerts:
King Pharmaceuticals (KG) caught my attention on August 4th when over 11,000 calls traded and a takeover rumor circulated on the internet ahead of its earnings report, which was scheduled for August 6th. I got a 9% pop following the earnings release and sold the stock on August 7th. But then on August 13th, the stock was halted, and it was announced that KG's abuse-resistant pain killer had won FDA approval. Analyst opinion was mixed on the news and the valuation of the company. I rebought the drug maker's stock on August 14th and sold August 27th (see trades below).
Vivus, Inc. (VVUS) has a few drugs in late stage clinical trials including Qnexa (obesity and diabetes) and Avanafil (erectile disfunction). VVUS calls got very active on August 3rd (over 6000 traded). I entered a speculative position in the stock based on the possibility of an upcoming announcement regarding data from the clinical trials.
Update (September 8th): Vivus will be releasing Qnexa results and holding a conference call tomorrow before the market opens. VVUS rallied 52 cents today to close at $6.91, then climbed over $8/sh in afterhours trading following the anouncement of the cc. I'm optimistic but sold half my VVUS shares for $8.20 during the a/h session for a 15.3% gain.
Update (September 9th): Qnexa results are in and they look pretty darned good. The stock surged today and I cashed in the rest of my shares at $11.95 (+68.1%)
MannKind Corp. (MNKD) develops drugs for the treatment of diabetes and cancer. Its pipeline includes Afresa, a fast-acting insulin therapy delivered by an inhaler. Options have been fairly active in August, particularly on the 13th, and with low put/call ratios. There have also been rumors of a possible partnership with a larger drugmaker. The stock was trading near support and oversold (RSI & Stochastics), so I entered a speculative position.
Update (Sept 8th): A takeover rumor made the rounds today, and I sold half MNKD for $8.75 (a 21.7% gain). I'll hold the other half since this stock has seen so much action over the past month and has held up well. MNKD closed at $8.73 (+72 cents) today.
Update (Sept 9th): A double top has developed in the chart and I sold the rest at $8.89 a share (a gain of $1.70). I have no idea if the rumored partnership will come to fruition. I'll look to get back in MNKD in the near future.
ACADIA Pharmaceuticals Inc. (ACAD) develops treatments for central nervous system disorders. For example, Primavanserin, which is in Phase III, is a treatment for Parkinson's disease patients. The calls got very active on August 13th (volume over 33,000), and an analyst mentioned that the stock could be worth around $15 on positive results for Primavanserin (or as low as $1 on negative results). The trial results are apparently expected to be released soon.
Update (9/1/2009): Primavanserin failed Phase III tests. Stock is trading below $2 premarket today. The call options will be a total loss.
Cadence Pharmaceuticals Inc. (CADX) makes drugs for use in hospital settings. It is developing the painkiller Acetevance, which is an injectable form of acetaminphen. The FDA decision date for Acetevance is November 13th. CADX options got active on August 7th, with bullish trades in the November calls. I have not taken a position in CADX yet.
Update (Sept 1st): I took a trading position in CADX, buying the shares for $9.91. Shares are near support from September 2008, May and August 2009 and near the lower trendline. This is a trading position only. I think shares have support here and the upcoming FDA action will add to that support. I'm not looking to hold this position into the decision in November. A stop just below support is in place.
Update (Sept 11): CADX seems to have reached an intermediate peak here and run out of momentum with mixed techincal indicators. I don't expect any upcoming events until the FDA action in November. I locked in profits by selling for $10.76 (+85 cents or +8.6%)
August 4th, bought KG for $9.37
August 7th, sold KG for $10.22 (+9.1%)
August 13th, bought VVUS for $7.11
August 13th bought MNKD for $7.19
August 14th bought KG for $10.30
August 14th, bought to open ACAD $7.50Sept Calls (.AQYIU) for $1.40
August 27th, sold KG for $10.68 (+3.7%)
September 1st, bought CADX for $9.91
September 8th, sold 1/2 position MNKD for $8.75 (+21.7%)
September 8th, sold 1/2 position VVUS for $8.20 (+15.3%)
September 9th, sold 1/2 position VVUS for $11.95 (+68.1%)
September 9th, sold 1/2 position MNKD for $8.89 (+23.6%)
September 11th, sold CADX for $10.76 (+8.6%)
Long .AQYIU ($1.40)