Ligand Pharma slips as analyst cuts rating

Ligand falls; analyst downgraded shares after company disclosed two drug candidate setbacks

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc. fell Friday after an analyst downgraded the company, citing the run-up in its stock price and setbacks for two drug candidates.

THE SPARK: Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Irina Rivkind downgraded the shares to "Sell" from "Hold," noting that the company's partners have stopped work on two late-stage experimental drugs.

Ligand said Thursday that Medicines Co. has ended work on intravenous version of the blood thinner Plavix. Ligand will get the rights to the drug back and can continue development or look for a new partner. Ligand also said Merck & Co. has stopped development of its leukemia drug dinaciclib.

Rivkind raised her price target by $1 to $37, but said the company's current share price reflects a "best-case scenario" that may not pan out.

THE BIG PICTURE: The San Diego company said Thursday morning that it posted a second-quarter profit of $6.1 million, or 30 cents per share, and its revenue rose 67 percent to $9.6 million. Royalty payments rose 63 percent to $4.9 million.

The company gets royalty payments on drugs including GlaxoSmithKline's Promacta and Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s multiple myeloma treatment Kyprolis. Ligand also has partnerships with Hospira Inc., Spectrum Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Sanofi.

SHARE ACTION: Ligand shares lost $2.43, or 5 percent, to $46.59 on Friday. Even with that decline the stock has more than doubled in value in 2013.

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