Despite COVID-19’s devastating impact on the economy, Oppenheimer’s Chief Investment Strategist John Stoltzfus remains overweight on U.S. equities, and is more bullish on cyclical sectors versus defensive sectors.
As for the legitimate concerns about the virus’ re-emergence, Stolzfus argues investors should “consider the reopening setbacks as just that and not something that is permanent.”
"In the past week along with legitimate concerns about the recent resurgences of Covid-19 stateside and abroad there was also a resurgence of the “life will never be the same” kind of worry creeping into the theme du jour. We don’t attribute much value to the latter worry as collaborative efforts by scientists across the globe continue at record pace to pursue vaccines to stem the spread of the virus as well as drugs of greater efficacy to treat those who have fallen ill to it," Stoltzfus noted.
Applying Stolzfus’ take to its recommendations, Oppenheimer is pounding the table on three stocks in particular. Noting that all three have solid long-term growth prospects, the firm’s analysts believe each has at least 50% upside potential. After running the tickers through TipRanks’ database, it’s clear the rest of the Street is in agreement, with each earning a “Strong Buy” consensus rating.
NuCana PLC (NCNA)
Using its ProTide technology, NuCana is working on transforming some of the most widely prescribed chemotherapy agents and nucleoside analogs into more effective and safer medicines. Given its potential to address the key limitations of other therapies, Oppenheimer has high hopes for this healthcare name.
Representing the firm, 5-star analyst Leland Gershell points out that nucleoside analogs are commonly used treatments for viral infections and many cancers, but “cellular resistance mechanisms that impede drug entry and activation, as well as enhance breakdown and toxicity, hamper the fuller realization of their therapeutic potential.” NCNA’s technology, on the other hand, uses a prodrug strategy exemplified by Gilead’s HIV and HCV programs to address these issues.
NCNA’s lead asset, Acelarin, is in Phase 3 development for front-line biliary tract cancer after the therapy combined with cisplatin demonstrated a superior clinical efficacy signal compared to gemcitabine, the current standard-of-care.
“These combinations are being compared head-to-head in a recently initiated Phase 3 in front-line disease, and interim efficacy analyses expected 2022-23 could enable this orphan indication's first approval,” Gershell commented. "We assign a 50% probability of success for Acelarinin biliary tract cancer, assume 35% peak penetration of the target ~18K patient annual incidence, with peak 2028 sales of ~$319M."
Adding to the good news, investors could get an update on NUC-3373, NuCana’s second product in clinical development, in the second half of 2020. NUC-3373 is an optimized active metabolite of 5- fluorouracil which is moving towards a registrational Phase 2/3 trial in early-line colorectal cancer
Looking at the available data, compared to 5-FU, NUC-3373 was able to generate significantly more anti-cancer activity, required a lower infusion time and had a better tolerability profile. On top of this, a Phase 1b multiple combination therapy trial in advanced colorectal cancer showed the candidate might benefit patients that are refractory to 5-FU, a claim Gershell believes could be validated by the 2H20 results.
The implication? Gershell stated, “With 5-FU a standard treatment component for a wide range of cancers, NUC-3373's key advantages position it to become the preferred alternative among the 500,000 U.S. individuals who receive 5-FU annually. Beyond colorectal cancer, NCNA has indicated interest in exploring NUC-3373 in other malignancies treated with 5- FU (e.g., gastric, esophageal cancer).”
To this end, Gershell rates NCNA an Outperform (i.e. Buy) along with a $20 price target. Shares could appreciate by 295%, should the analyst’s thesis play out in the coming months.
It’s not often that the analysts all agree on a stock, so when it does happen, take note. NCNA’s Strong Buy consensus rating is based on a unanimous 4 Buys. The stock’s $17 average price target suggests a 236% upside from the current share price of $5.08.
Milestone Pharmaceuticals (MIST)
Hoping to address the unmet needs of patients, Milestone Pharmaceuticals develops therapies for the acute treatment of arrhythmias and other cardiac conditions. Even though the company experienced a setback related to one of its therapies in March, Oppenheimer believes it is back on track.
5-star analyst Leland Gershell, who also covers NCNA, acknowledges that there was some uncertainty following NODE-301's primary endpoint miss in March. However, he argues “MIST has emerged from constructive FDA discussions on track to complete etripamil's development in paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) without the need to run a new trial, a solid positive to expectations.”
Although NODE-301 wasn’t able to meet the original primary endpoint of time to conversion (TTC), statistical analysis demonstrated that the therapy showed efficacy earlier on when evaluated over shorter periods. Therefore, the FDA agreed to a new statistical analysis plan that defines the primary endpoint as TTC at 30 minutes, so NODE-301 was technically successful.
What does this change mean for MIST? Gershell noted, “NODE-301's original five-hour primary analysis period provided time for a sufficient number of placebo subjects to experience spontaneous resolutions, precluding the ability to show a difference. The use of a 30-minute window as the primary assessment retains etripamil nasal spray's value proposition to avoid/reduce emergency department visits, and bodes well for RAPID success.”
Originally, the RAPID study (formerly NODE-301B) was set to include 170 participants who had been randomized into the double-blind, event-driven trial but had not experienced an SVT event upon reaching the target event number. Now, the trial will continue until 180 total events have been witnessed, and MIST will re-open enrollment in 2H20 with 1:1 randomization. With top-line data slated for release in late 2021/early 2022, the data readout could reflect a major catalyst.
When it comes to its cash position, MIST boasted $102 million as of March 31, with the $25 million private placement by lead shareholder RTW supporting its operations into Q2 2022. This capital was provided in exchange for about 6.66 million pre-funded stock warrants. According to Gershell, this means MIST should have enough funding to reach key catalysts.
All of the above makes it clear why Gershell is now standing with the bulls. In addition to upgrading the rating to Outperform, he put an $18 price target on the stock. This brings the upside potential to 117%.
Judging by the consensus breakdown, other analysts also like what they’re seeing. 3 Buys and a single Hold add up to a Strong Buy consensus rating. Based on the $13.25 average price target, the upside potential lands at 59%.
Counting tech industry titans like Apple, Samsung, LG and Huawei as customers, InterDigital is one of the top R&D companies in the world. With it boasting 32,000 patents, applications in wireless and video technologies and a broad international footprint, Oppenheimer thinks now is the time to get on board.
Analyst Ian Zaffino tells clients that IDCC’s product portfolio gives it “significant earnings power.” Expounding on this, he stated, “Its patents are integrated into the major wireless standards and comprise ~6% of all 5G patents, including ones that cover signal power control... Roughly 93% of revenues come from fixed-fee payments, which create a predictable and recurring revenue stream.”
Additionally, the company has a history of IP enforcement. Speaking to its efforts on this front, IDCC signed agreements with Samsung in 2014, Apple in 2016 and LG Electronics in 2017. It should be noted that the tech name recently renewed its license with Huawei, which could open the door for licensing deals with other handset makers, in Zaffino’s opinion.
Currently, there are five Chinese manufacturers, including Oppo, Xiaomi, Vivo, Lenovo and TCL, as well as a group of smaller players that use IDCC’s technology without a license. “Over the next several years, we believe the company can ink deals with each one. If we assume each large manufacturer represents ~$30 million-$40 million of annual revenues, IDCC has the potential to generate revenues of ~$500 million and EPS of ~$6,” Zaffino explained.
Representing another positive, IDCC recently acquired Technicolor, a move that could pay off big time. According to Zaffino, revenues here would most likely come from “major television manufacturers, including Samsung and LG, who already have relationships with IDCC on the wireless side.” The company also has an opportunity in the IoT space.
Everything that IDCC has going for it prompted Zaffino to rate the stock an Outperform (i.e. Buy). The cherry on top? His $90 price target implies a 53% upside from current levels.
Other analysts back Zaffino’s take. 3 Buys and no Holds or Sells have been assigned in the last three months, so the word on the Street is that IDCC is a Strong Buy. The $94.67 average price target puts the upside potential at 60%.