Amarin Analysts Playing 'Expectations Reset' Game

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Lazard Capital Markets commenting on Amarin ( AMRN) Monday:

"Now is the time to own Amarin shares over the balance of 2012, we believe."

Sounds bullish, as does Lazard's $26 price target, but take a closer look at the "valuation matrix" for Amarin offered by analyst Bill Tanner because it paints a less rosy picture.

Tanner concocts 10 possible commercial scenarios for Amarin's prescription fish-oil pill Vascepa. Four of them value Amarin shares between $4 and $11, meaning at or below the current stock price. The other six scenarios value Amarin shares between $13 and $39.

The average price of Tanner's Amarin "valuation matrix" works out to $17 per share -- a 50% bump from the stock's current level. Not bad, but a lower price target than the one espoused by die-hard Amarin bulls.

By the way, if you throw out the low and high scenarios in Tanner's calculations, Amarin's fair value falls to $15 per share, which is basically where the stock traded when Vascepa was approved in July. And when Amarin insiders sold a large chunk of stock.

Sell-side analysts tend to be trailing indicators and that's certainly the case with Amarin. Investors have already figured out that Vascepa's future is clouded by uncertainty over the long-delayed FDA decision on New Chemical Entity (NCE) status and the company's failure to spell out a clear commercialization plan. In this regard, analysts are telling investors stuff they already know.

Read through the most recent batch of Amarin sell-side notes and you'll notice a ratcheting down of expectations. Bullish takeout predictions are being discarded or significantly discounted. There's an admission now that the Vascepa NCE decision -- three or five years of market exclusivity -- is important where it was once regarded as trivial.

And perhaps most interesting, analysts are now talking more about the possibility that Amarin markets Vascepa on its own, without a Big Pharma partner.

Jefferies analyst Thomas Wei, in a recent Amarin note:

"We believe it would be prudent for investors to assume that Amarin may very well announce that it plans to launch Vascepa on its own..."

Wedbush downgraded Amarin in early October for similar reasons.

Amarin was supposed to provide details about Vascepa's commercial launch this month but that announcement has apparently been pushed back to November. Last year, Amarin announced third-quarter results on Nov. 7, so the company should have something to say fairly soon.

Amarin shares were down 1.5% to $11.09 in Monday trading.

-- Reported by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.

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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