Idenix Pharma Buyout Likely: Survey

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Wall Street investors remain bullish on hepatitis C drug stocks and by a wide margin believe Idenix Pharmaceuticals ( IDIX) will be acquired.

ISI Group biotech analyst Mark Schoenebaum held a lunch meeting Friday for 120 investors to discuss the current state of hepatitis C drug development. As part of his meeting, Schoenebaum surveyed his investor audience -- made up of 30% generalists, 20% arbs and 30% specialists -- on their views and opinions about the current red-hot topics in hepatitis C.

Asked if Idenix Pharma has a greater than 50% chance of being acquired, 79% of the investors responded in the affirmative, 21% said no.

The group was more evenly split on Achillion Pharmaceuticals' ( ACHN) chances for a takeout, with 49% leaning yes and 51% saying no.

Gilead Science's ( GILD) $11 billion acquisition of Pharmasset was the spark that ignited the recent run in Hep C drug stocks. Schoenebaum's buy-side investor crowd likes the blockbuster deal, with 64% predicting Gilead will create value with its purchase of Pharmasset. Thirty-six percent say Gilead is going to destroy shareholder value with this deal.

On a related note, 61% say Gilead shares are a buy today. Gilead shares rose 3 cents to $47.24 Friday and the stock is up about 16% for the year, leading all of the large-cap biotechs. Thirty-nine percent of Schoenebaum's respondents say Gilead is a sell at these levels.

Bristol-Myer Squibb's ( BMY) $2.5 billion purchase of Inhibitex ( INHX) is also viewed favorably by a wide margin, although a small majority (54%) of investors view Bristol as a sell at current valuation.

The size of the commercial opportunity for new all-oral Hep C treatment regimens is a much-debated topic these days. The investors at today's meeting generally fall into the bull camp, with 48% predicting worldwide Hep C drug sales between $8 billion and $10 billion by 2019.

Idenix shares neared Friday's close down 6% to $13.94 while Achillion was off 11.5% to $9.39.

--Written by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.

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Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for TheStreet. In keeping with company editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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