HCV Players Moving After Merck Buys Idenix

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Shares of several companies that have developed hepatitis C, or HCV, treatments are rising after one such company, Idenix (IDIX), agreed to be acquired by Merck (MRK). Meanwhile, shares of Gilead (GILD) are falling after an analyst wrote that Merck could be in a better position to extract royalties from Gilead following the acquisition. 


WHAT'S NEW: Merck and Idenix reported this morning that Idenix would be acquired by Merck for $24.50 per share or $3.85B. The purchase price is more than triple the company's closing price on Friday. Idenix has developed a number of HCV treatments. In an interview with Reuters, Merck's R&D chief, Roger Perlmutter said that Indenix's experimental drug, IDX21437, could cure patients with every genotype of HCV within four to six weeks, the news service reported. Currently viewed by many as the leading HCV treatment, Gilead's Solvaldi must be taken for 12 weeks by most patients, according to Gilead's website.

REACTION: In an article published by The Street today, blogger Adam Feuerstein wrote that Achillion Pharmaceuticals (ACHN), which has developed its own HCV drugs, could be the next takeover target in the space. Like Gilead's Sovaldi, Achillion's ACH-3422 is a nucleotide, Feurstein noted. After CNBC reported that Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Abbvie (ABBV) both made unsuccessful bids for Idenix, Feurstein believes that investors are betting that Achillion could be acquired by Johnson & Johnson or Abbvie. Meanwhile, in a note to investors earlier today, Dr. Joshua Schimmer, an analyst at research firm Piper Jaffray, wrote that some investors believe that Merck acquired Idenix partly to strengthen its hand in patent litigation against Gilead. Patents were likely a key factor in Merck's purchase of Idenix, but analysts have always expected Gielad to pay Merck a royalty on Sovaldi sales, the analyst wrote. Moreover, Sovaldi is likely to constitute a much lower percentage of Gilead's HCV sales going forward as the company develops new combination therapies, Schimmer contended. He kept an Overweight rating on the stock.

PRICE ACTION: In late morning trading, Achillion climbed 36% to $3.92, Gilead dropped 3.8% to $79.26, and Idenix soared 234% to $24.15, and Merck was little changed.

 

Reporting by Larry Ramer.

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