Health indices were pulled taut Thursday by stocks moving in both directions on acquisition, earnings, clinical and regulatory news. Aspreva ( ASPV) shares bounded $3.11, or 13.8%, to $25.61, on news that Galenica Group will acquire all of Aspreva's outstanding shares for $26 apiece, or around $915 million. The price is a 16% premium over the Canadian company's Oct. 16 closing price and a 24% premium over the 30-day average trading price of Aspreva shares. Aspreva has two phase III clinical development programs under way to evaluate CellCept, an oral treatment for autoimmune diseases, such as lupus nephritis. The company is a component of the Nasdaq biotechnology index, which was down 0.48, or 0.05%, at 892.03. On the earnings side, Baxter ( BAX) said that quarterly sales climbed 8% to $2.75 billion from $2.56 billion last year. The company reported its net income rose to $395 million, or 61 cents a share for the quarter, from $374 million, or 57 cents a share, during the year-ago quarter. The recent quarter included one-time charges of $63 million, or 9 cents a share, related to an acquisition and a lawsuit -- excluding items, Baxter earned $458 million, or 70 cents a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had predicted 66 cents a share on revenue of $2.68 billion. Baxter now expects to earn $2.75 to $2.77 a share, excluding special items, compared to prior forecasts of $2.65 to $2.70 per share previously. Shares rose $4.45, or 8.1%, to $59.77.
Medical device maker St. Jude ( STJ) came in just over estimates. The company reported a 13% rise in revenue to $926.8 million from $821.3 million and earnings of $160.2 million, or 46 cents a share, compared to $115.5 million, or 32 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had expected 45 cents a share on revenue of $925.8 million. Chief Executive Dan Starks said on a conference call that Medtronic's ( MDT) recall of wires used with its implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) could impact St. Jude's fourth quarter but there are too many unknowns at this time. The companies compete, but there is speculation that the recall could initially hurt all ICD manufacturers. Shares fell $2.23, or 5%, to $43.26. On the clinical end, Shering-Plough ( SGP) reported positive preliminary results for its experimental hepatitis C drug boceprevir on Thursday,
which could compete with Vertex Pharmaceuticals ( VRTX) product. Schering-Plough shares were up 53 cents, or 1.6%, to $32.78, and Vertex declined $5.25, or 14.6%, to $30.62. Then on the regulatory side, the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) issued a positive opinion on a variety of marketing authorization applications. Among them: The CHMP gave a positive opinion for the application from Bristol-Myers Squibb ( BMY), Gilead Sciences ( GILD) and Merck ( MRK) for Atripla, a once-daily single table regimen for HIV/AIDS. It also gave a positive recommendation to Abraxis Biosience's ( ABBI) Abraxane as a monotherapy for metastatic breast cancer in patients who've failed first-line treatment and for whom standard anthracycline-containing therapy is not indicated. Another positive recommendation went to GlaxoSmithKline's ( GSK) Avamys for allergic rhinitis, and to Alcon Laboratories ( ACL) for Nevanac for the prevention and treatment of postoperative pain and inflammation associated with cataract surgery. Also, Teva ( TEVA) got a positive opinion for Olanzapine, a generic treatment for schizophrenia and moderate to severe manic episode. All of the aforementioned with positive recommendations were trading slightly down, except Gilead, which has earnings Thursday after the bell. It rose 80 cents, or 1.9%, to $43.51. The CHMP's positive recommendations will be reviewed by the European Commission, which has the authority to approve medicinal products for use in the 27 countries of the European Union.