U.S. Markets open in 9 hrs 28 mins

One Thing To Consider Before Buying Pfenex Inc (NYSEMKT:PFNX)

Lester Strauss

If you are looking to invest in Pfenex Inc’s (AMEX:PFNX), or currently own the stock, then you need to understand its beta in order to understand how it can affect the risk of your portfolio. PFNX is exposed to market-wide risk, which arises from investing in the stock market. This risk reflects changes in economic and political factors that affects all stocks, and is measured by its beta. Different characteristics of a stock expose it to various levels of market risk, and the market as a whole represents a beta of one. A stock with a beta greater than one is expected to exhibit higher volatility resulting from market-wide shocks compared to one with a beta below one.

Check out our latest analysis for Pfenex

What is PFNX’s market risk?

Pfenex has a beta of 3.59, which means that the percentage change in its stock value will be higher than the entire market in times of booms and busts. A high level of beta means investors face higher risk associated with potential gains and losses driven by market movements. According to this value of beta, PFNX may be a stock for investors with a portfolio mainly made up of low-beta stocks. This is because during times of bullish sentiment, you can reap more of the upside with high-beta stocks compared to muted movements of low-beta holdings.

Could PFNX’s size and industry cause it to be more volatile?

A market capitalisation of US$106.44M puts PFNX in the category of small-cap stocks, which tends to possess higher beta than larger companies. But, PFNX’s industry, biotechs, is considered to be defensive, which means it is less volatile than the market over the economic cycle. Therefore, investors can expect a high beta associated with the size of PFNX, but a lower beta given the nature of the industry it operates in. It seems as though there is an inconsistency in risks from PFNX’s size and industry. A potential driver of this variance can be a fundamental factor, which we will take a look at next.

AMEX:PFNX Income Statement Mar 15th 18

Can PFNX’s asset-composition point to a higher beta?

An asset-heavy company tends to have a higher beta because the risk associated with running fixed assets during a downturn is highly expensive. I test PFNX’s ratio of fixed assets to total assets in order to determine how high the risk is associated with this type of constraint. Given that fixed assets make up less than a third of the company’s total assets, PFNX doesn’t rely heavily upon these expensive, inflexible assets to run its business during downturns. Thus, we can expect PFNX to be more stable in the face of market movements, relative to its peers of similar size but with a higher portion of fixed assets on their books. However, this is the opposite to what PFNX’s actual beta value suggests, which is higher stock volatility relative to the market.

What this means for you:

You could benefit from higher returns during times of economic growth by holding onto PFNX. Its low fixed cost also means that, in terms of operating leverage, it is relatively flexible during times of economic downturns. What I have not mentioned in my article here are important company-specific fundamentals such as Pfenex’s financial health and performance track record. I urge you to complete your research by taking a look at the following:

  1. Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for PFNX’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for PFNX’s outlook.
  2. Financial Health: Is PFNX’s operations financially sustainable? Balance sheets can be hard to analyze, which is why we’ve done it for you. Check out our financial health checks here.
  3. Other High-Performing Stocks: Are there other stocks that provide better prospects with proven track records? Explore our free list of these great stocks here.


To help readers see pass the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned.