Regeneron News Must Be Put In Perspective

Reporting this news without including expectations could have led investors astray.
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The Business Press Maven is always happy to call the business media some choice names when they don't fully explain expectations. Generally my ranting on this issue keys off earnings reports, but this also becomes a crying game for me when it comes to other business developments, like new products clearing hurdles.

For instance, suppose a cancer drug in development failed an important study. Well, was it expected to fail? Or what is thought of as a sure-fire hit? The expectations should be central to the story line of any article covering the issue, as they have endless implications for not only stock price, but also future business strategy.

Yet look at these three articles on

Regeneron

(REGN) - Get Report

, the biopharmaceutical company that has partnered up with

Sanofi-Aventis

(SNY) - Get Report

. One of the articles (the good one) makes expectations the gravitational center point of the article and leaves the reader informed. The second (the bad one) makes little, if any, mention of expectations, and thus leaves the reader uninformed. The third (the medium one) mentions past expectations, informing the reader, but makes a weird, sloppy stab at future expectations, confusing the reader.

The good one was written by Elizabeth Trotta of

TheStreet.com

. I try to stay away from praising

TheStreet.com

work too often for fear of charges of favoritism, but I have to submit this one for your approval. Start with the headline, which says it all: "

Low Expectations Don't Cushion Regeneron

."

They Just Don't Get Inflation!

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The story here is that Regeneron was aiming to compete with

Genentech

(DNA)

on an ovarian cancer drug, but interim data presented last year at the American Society of Clinical Oncology did not look promising and now this: a 215 patient phase II study, which ran along the same unpromising lines. The headline thus gets at the crux of the matter: If expectations were already low, why did the stock get creamed by nearly 15%.

Under the wondrously beautiful heading "What Are Low Expectations?" we are told that results in this latest study were even worse than the interim data, though an analyst quoted does hold out hope. Soon we also hear that a previous plan to file with the FDA this year has gone a little vague. So, see, we learned stuff.

Forbes

, on the other hand, makes it seem in the headline that expectations were for full steam ahead approval: "

Regeneron Can't Fast-track Ovarian Cancer Drug

."

While few were actually expecting fast-track approval,

Forbes

dedicates its second and third sentences to big picture whining on the travails of being a smaller-sized biotech ... and even mentions not living up to expectations which, uh, because of the interim data, weren't high to begin with.

Said

Forbes

:

"It's tough being a small biotech company in a world of pharmaceutical behemoths; you just don't have the resources or the time to put a slew of different drugs through the pipeline. So, when the only drug you've got doesn't live up to expectations that results in some pretty disgruntled investors."

Down way further in the article, it mentions that the most recent results "reflected" past data, but by then it's too little too late and, besides, not spelled out. The expectations were for a challenging approval process, if any, not fast-track.

The

Associated Press

mentions past expectations with a decent degree of prominence, but gets a little kooky with future expectations. The headline of their article was: "

Regeneron shares slide on missed cancer study goal

: Regeneron shares drop on ovarian cancer study results, but analysts remain optimistic."

The Business Press Maven has nothing against a counterintuitive take -- far from it. But to showcase the positive future expectations of analysts when there are many immediate concerns to address and surmount is a bit much. Remember, you could have gotten positive takes from Wall Street analysts about the Titanic, post iceberg. Let's put their expectations in perspective, when even low expectations have not been met.

At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.

Marek Fuchs was a stockbroker for Shearson Lehman Brothers and a money manager before becoming a journalist who wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column for six years. He also did back-up beat coverage of The New York Knicks for the paper's Sports section for two seasons and covered other professional and collegiate sports. He has contributed frequently to many of the Times' other sections, including National, Metro, Escapes, Style, Real Estate, Arts & Leisure, Travel, Money & Business, Circuits and the Op-Ed Page. For his "Business Press Maven? column on how business and finance are covered by the media, Fuchs was named best business journalist critic in the nation by the Talking Biz website at The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fuchs is a frequent speaker on the business media, in venues ranging from National Public Radio to the annual conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Fuchs appreciates your feedback;

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