Merck (MRK) was falling 1.3% following a downgrade from BMO Capital Markets.
Analyst Alex Arfaei lowered his rating on the stock from Outperform to Market perform, ahead of the company’s earnings report on July 31, and lowered his price target by $1 to $51.
Arfeai writes that he is concerned about the firm’s type 2 diabetes treatment Januvia, given increased competition. “Our analysis suggests that Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ) Invokana is taking volume away from Januvia. We argue that SGLT2s are attractive treatment options that will compete directly with DPP-IVs for post-metformin patients.”
He also notes that he expects that Merck will be on the prowl for acquisition targets, given recent pipeline setbacks. He includes Allergan (AGN), Onyx Pharmaceuticals (ONXX) or companies with complementary oncology assets for cancer treatment lambrolizumab among his list of potential acquisition targets.
He concludes: “Although the Lambro non-small cell lung cancer data will likely be a positive catalyst, we do not believe it is enough to offset Januvia concerns. There is also considerable uncertainty regarding other late-stage pipeline drugs like Odanacatib. Other key pipeline drugs, like Anacetrapib and the BACE inhibitor are at least two to four years away. Finally, the uncertainty associated with a potentially costly deal gives us another reason to move to the sidelines after a ~20% YTD return.”