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Momenta Continues to Rebuild

Brian Orelli, The Motley Fool

Momenta Pharmaceuticals' (NASDAQ: MNTA) fourth-quarter earnings were about as rough as the rest of its 2018, a year in which the biotech needed to restructure and cut about half its workforce. With ongoing competition leading to paltry sales of Glatopa, its generic version of Teva Pharmaceutical's Copaxone, Momenta's investors should be focused on the pipeline.

Momenta results: The raw numbers

Metric

Q4 2018

Q4 2017

Year-Over-Year Change

Revenue

$42.8 million

$64.6 million

(34%)

Income from operations

($9.7 million)

$12.6 million

N/A

Earnings per share

($0.10)

$0.18

N/A

Data source: Momenta Pharmaceuticals.

What happened with Momenta this quarter?

  • Product revenue from sales of Glatopa products by its partner Novartis (NYSE: NVS) were only down slightly year over year -- $11 million versus $13 million. The rest of the year-over-year decline in revenue was due to reimbursement for research and development costs, which can vary from quarter to quarter.
  • On the pipeline front, Momenta has started phase 2 studies for M281 in two immunological conditions: myasthenia gravis and hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn. The phase 1 portion of a phase 1/2 study testing M254 in healthy volunteers also started recently; the phase 2 portion will enroll patients with a blood disorder called immune thrombocytopenia. A third program partnered with CSL, which Momenta calls M230 and CSL calls CSL730, is also in phase 1 development, with data expected this year.
  • The company ended the year with $449 million in the bank, putting it in good shape to weather the marathon ahead.
Scientist working in a lab.

Image source: Getty Images.

What management had to say

It was a difficult decision for Momenta to restructure and focus on its pipeline, but Craig Wheeler, Momenta's president and CEO, noted that the company now has "sufficient capital to fund our novel programs to key proof of concept without any additional significantly dilutive capital raises ahead of [proof-of-concept] data expected in 2020."

There's also potential to extend the runway a little further by licensing M923, the company's biosimilar to Humira. Chief business officer Young Kwon hinted that the company would be willing to take lower royalties -- or perhaps no royalties at all -- in exchange for more up-front cash to fund its operations:

I think there's kind of a balance between our objectives. Having a share of the value downstream is certainly helpful to the long-term value creation in terms of providing cash flow to the company and, call it, the midterm. However, we certainly would, I think, value -- and maybe even prioritize -- kind of early and near-term milestones in order to help kind of continue to capitalize the company as we pursue both these studies that we're conducting now, as well as the studies in phase 3 that we hope to enter, pending positive clinical readouts.

Looking forward

With multiple drugs in relatively early-stage development, it's likely to be a slow news year for Momenta on the pipeline front. While some safety data may be released this year, the next big event is likely to come from M254, which is scheduled to read out proof-of-concept data in the first half of 2020.

There's also potential for the aforementioned deal for a marketing partner for M923, but the drug can't be launched until 2023 due to patents AbbVie claims on the branded drug, so potential partners may not be in a rush to sign on the dotted line.

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Brian Orelli has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Momenta Pharmaceuticals. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.