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Bio-Techne Corporation (TECH)
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Dr John, I noticed that ARCT was getting hit hard after hours. I wonder if you can compare ARCT’s covid19 vaccine candidate with Corvus. I remember watching a presentation on YouTube in which a representative from ARCT said that out of 78 participants that received the vaccine in the early trial; that 77 of them had positive results in terms of antibody and T-cell response.
so far so good, pt 2:
...and the biotech sector continues to be "en vogue", at least in selected sectors. While many large cap biotechs and more traditionally oriented mid-large caps (such as Alexion or Neurocrine) are treading water at best, selected "targeted"oncology companies and some gene editing outfits are red hot.
Since my last post 3 weeks ago (somewhat "buried" in an answer to LMP), Oric (ORIC) has been performing very well (then 25, now 35), as did Crisper (CRSP: then 106, now 148), while Mersana (MRSN) is still trading at ca 23.5 USD (Interim top line results in rr-Ovarial Cancer should be released soon).
I have repeatedly mentioned (and added to my position) Beam (BEAM, now at 67) and Fate (FATE, now at 83), which have been outstanding performers, as was ALXO which I increased significantly in size. All have shown impressive new (proof of concept-) data and, aprtly due to the SP-appreciation, all three figure now among my "top 10" biotech holdings (my top 10 positions being: CRVS >TGTX >ARWR >TPTX >BEAM >FATE >AUPH >KOD >ALXO >MRSN=ALXN)
for quite some time, I owned a rather small position in the opthalmology biotech Kodiak (KOD) (initial purchase price at ca 50, now at 124). Only recently I woke up and increased my position significantly. For some reason I did not appreciate the true value of their pipeline and the strategic brilliance of KOD's top management team. (I strongly suggest to listen into their MorganStanley Healthcare conference presentation).
As to these Zoom-Healthcare conferences: For me as an investor it is extremely helpful to see/judge how the top management team of different biotech companies is responding to questions. You feel immediately who is top notch/ with whom you'd like to invest (provided the stock is still reasonably priced). Examples being: Beam, Fate, KOD, ORIC, KROS. I also strongly suggest to look into the Jefferies London Healthcare conference and specifically listen to those Zoom "fireside chats", which were hosted by Michel Yee from Jefferies, an extremely bright analyst asking very informative questions (he interviewed, pex Beam, Fate, Oric, Alxo, Kron, Akro, amongst others). Access via the respecitve biotech hoempage)
Three large long term medtech-/life science positions of mine (which I have repeatedly written about) have shown a very nice performance in 2020: Nanostring (NSTG: beginning 2020: 27 USD--> now 63) and Quanterix (QTRX: beginning 2020: 23 USD --> now 47) and Natera (NTRA: beginning 2020: 35 USD --> now 90). I recently bought a midsize position in Illumina at ca 295 (ILMN , now ca 340USD), because I think their acquisition of GRAIL is a long term winner in the liquid biopsy space. Grail with its methylation based NGS platform is IMO superior to Thrive (also an interesting company, recently acquired by EXAS) and at least equivalent to Guardant Health (GH).
Taken altogether: Moments like now are dangerous: You look back on a very decent portfolio performance, to say the least, and pat yourself on the shoulder, thinking you are sooo shrewd. However, in the end, 3/4 of it is the "flood lift all boats"- effect (you happen to be in the right sector). I am still positive, but there is no reason, why all these wonderful biotechs could not trade 50% below the current valuation. Therefore, I increased my cash position again.
There are some very very promising "next-gen" companies in the biotech/medtech space, which, unfortunately are too expensive most of the time, such as Ten-X Genomics (TXG), Berkley Lights (BLI), Schroedinger (SDGR), or Relay (RELY). (I won small amount of BLI and SDGR).
good bye 2020- hello 2021 (part2)
While I think it is a good moment to buy those TPD-companies mentioned above, one has to bear in mind that, apart from ARVN, these are all preclinical companies, meaning significant news flow might be sparse during the next 6-12m, and I expect the share price to fluctuate considerably.
3. I continue to hold onto most of my large long-term holdings, which I have written about many times and expect them to continue to deliver, such as:
a) for biotechs: ARVN, TPTY, BEAM, FATE, ALXO, ASND. Revolution Medicine (RVMD, ca 39.5 USD, MC 2.6B) is a leader in the RAS-space with a diversified pipeline, but has been a laggard as of recently, what I expect to change in 2021 (my average buying price ca 41). Then, there is of course TGTX, (52 USD, MC 7.15B), the outstanding performer in 2020 (quintupling form 10 to >50 USD), thanks to the (expected) positive ph3 data of ublituximab in RRMS. I sold a good 50% of my TGTX at current prices. At a valuation of >7B there is less room of safety than before, especially since TGTX's B-cell pipeline, while with good results, is swimming in a pond with more and more innovative competitors. Ublituximab, on the other hand, might be a trifle more effective than other anti CD20 in RRMS. However, with Roche's Ocrevus now being approved for administration over 2 hours, the "one-hour advantage" of ublituximab is not spectacular anymore. I sold about 2/3 of Aurinia (AUPH, ca 13.8 USD, MC ca 1.75B), which recently performed less well than expected, and still hold a moderate-size position of my long term winner Chemocentryx (CCXI, ca 62USD, MC ca 4.25B)
b) in life science/medtech space my large long term holdings continue to be: TECH, QTRX, MDXG (currently at 9USD, MC 1B, P/S ca 3.8 which is very low --> expect further significant SP-appreciation), BDX, NSTG, NTRA, MDT.
4. in the pulmonology space I have a rather large position in Acceleron (XLRN 128USD, MC 7.7B), where I expect Sotatercept to become a pillar in the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension. For the treatment of Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (and other fibrotic diseases) I am looking at the selective Integrin portfolio of Pliant (PLRX, ca 22.5USD, MC 800m, cash 290m), in which I have a moderate size position (ca at current price levels). However, both XLRN and PLRX will not have significant news flow for most of the year (or at least 1H2021), meaning, that the SP might linger during the next couple of months (I don't care). While Pliant also has a NASH-program (partnered with Novartis), my NASH pick is AKERO (AKRO, 25.8 USD, MC ca 900m, cash 290m). AKRO's EFX (Efruxifermin), a FcFGF21 fusion protein has shown a best in class fibrosis reduction and NASH improvement profile, (also compared to the 2 other companies (Bristol Myers and 89Bio) which have pegylated versions of FGF21 in earlier stage clinical studies than AKRO. AKRO's low valuation is best explained by a continued nervousness of investors when it comes to the NASH space (due to ICPT's CR-letter earlier this year). One negative point to keep an eye on are non trivial GI-side effects at high doses of EFX. As it is the case with XLRN and PLRX (and with the TPD-companies), AKRO will not present crucial news for most of 2021, since the ph3 is just being started.
to be continued in pt 3
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Congrats Dr John! One of your top 10 holdings; ALXN, got bought out this morning.
good bye 2020 - hello 2021 (part3)
5. My dermatology pick is Arcutis (ARQT, ca 28 USD, MC ca 1.22B, 190m cash). Long-timers of this message board might remember Anacor (ANAC), a dermatology company being bought by Pfizer in 2016 for 4.5B USD. ANAC had a Boron-based topical PDE-4 Inhibitor for atopic dermatitis, and PFE was expecting a blockbuster. However, even though effective, Eucrisa (R) has not been very successful, due to poor tolerability (itching most probably due to Boron, unpleasant feel of the vehicle on the skin, etc) and sales are below 200m USD/y.
Enters ARQT, which has its own topical PDE4-Inhibitor Roflumilast cream/foam in advanced clinical studies for Plaque Psoriasis, Atopic dermatitis, Seborrheic dermatitis. Tolerability and efficacy (up to now) of Roflumilast are excellent, and I think this topical drug will ultimately garner the revenue PFE hoped for with the acquisition of ANAC (i.e sales of 1.5-2.5B/y). I expect ARQT to be a very promising long term winner. My average buying price is ca 29 USD/Sh and I have now accumulated a rather large position, which I might increase in the coming months.
6. I will not repeat my post from ca 3 weeks ago about companies which are involved the cell based development and development ecosystem and synthetic biology (pex BLI, TXG, TWST, Ginko Bioworks (private)) and computational driven drug discovery (pex SDGR). I would like to own them all, but currently have only a moderate-size position in SDGR (ca 79USD/share, Mc ca 5.5B) and a small position in BLI (89USD, MC 5.9B). These companies are almost prohibitively expensive, but -alas- I expect them to stay so for the foreseeable future, reason why I intend to build/extend positions on any weakness.
7. Last, but not least: My very large Rodney Dangerfield position in Corvus (CRVS ca 3.55 USD, MC ca 100m) did not change. There seems to be no investor interest at all in this stock, which I find remarkable, since it has not only several compounds in the clinic, but in addition a very promising drug with CPI-006, a polyclonal B-cell stimulator inducing high titres of AG-specific IgM- and IgG-antibodies, B-memory cells and AG-specific T effector cells. CPI-006 is all the more appealing now, with new variants of SARS-CoV2 spreading around the world, which might not respond to vaccination.
-Enough Blabla from my side!
-Remember those tried-and true Words of Wisdom: "When Dr John becomes logorrheic, there must be an imminent market-peak."
-Or, as a certain US-President uses to say: "Sad, so sad".
good bye 2020 - hello 2021 (part 1)
As outlined in the "so far so good" message one month ago, 2020 has been a good year for biotech, (especially for hot sectors such as gene editing (in my portfolio BEAM, CRISPR), gene silencing (in my portfolio ARWR), cellular therapy (in my portfolio FATE) and targeted oncology (in my portfolio pex TPTX, ALXO) and many life science companies, especially those somehow involved in genomic analysis, single cell analysis and ultrasensitive biomarker assays (in my portfolio pex NSTG, NTRA, ILMN, BLI and QTRX, TECH). I expect this trend to continue in 2021, but would not be surprised, if the recent correction will continue after a possible short-lasting NY-uptrend.
What might be areas of interest in 2021?
1. Of course (and as widely advocated by Cathy Woods of ARK) the genomics space will continue to gain traction. I am thinking less of viral mediated gene therapy, but of Gene editing (BEAM, CRISPR) and top notch siRNA companies such as ARWR, as well as , p.ex., those life science companies mentioned above.
2. Targeted protein degradation (TPD) has been another hot area in 2020, especially since Arvinas' (ARWR) showed proof of concept, that its PROTAC's can not only degrade the androgen receptor (AR) but also the estrogen receptor (ER), both important oncology targets. In an nutshell, TPD companies develop oral (usually once daily) treatments which target intracellular protein-hemostasis, mostly with the goal of degrading a specific target protein (pex the AR or ER), which is another way to come to the same results as, pex. the siRNA-technology tries to do. However TPD has the advantage of faster onset of action and oral administration. TPD is usually been done by heterobifunctional degraders (or PROTACs), where one part binds to a Ligase (mostly the E3 Ligase cereblon), linked to another binding domain which binds to the target protein. The E3-ligase transfers ubiquitin to the target protein , which in turn is degraded by the proteasome system. Then there are the monofunctional degraders, or "molecular glues", which change the ligase conformation, so that it sticks to the taget protein. For a long time the >600 human ligases have been considered as "undruggable" but this has changed now, and there is a lot of competition of private and recently IPO'ed companies. To my knowledge there are four public "pure play" TPD-companies, and I own them all in my portfolio. I first invested a rather small position in the TPD-"granddaddy" Arvinas (ARVN, ca 85 USD/share, MC ca 4B) earlier this year, when the stock was in a slump (at ca 23). I recently bought shares of the other 3 companies (admittedly exactly at the wrong moment, when their stock price was higher than now, but added considerably during the downturn), and have a large position in Nurix (NRIX ca 32.5USD, MC ca 1.25B), a medium size position in Kymera (KYMR ca 62 USD, MC ca 2.75B) and smallish position in 4C (CCCC, ca 33 USD, MC ca 1.5B). I have been especially impressed by the top execs of NRIX ( CEO Arthur Sands) and think their (preclinical) BTK-degrading pipeline has a lot of evident potential. What's more NRIX does not only harness target proteins, but its technology can also inhibit degradation of target proteins, thereby increasing their concentration, such as in CBL-B an intracellular "immuno-oncology"- signalling protein (downstream of the T-cell receptor), and upregulation of CBL-B by NRIX's preclinical compound shows monotherapy anti-tumor activity. KYMR, on the other hand, might have a CEO who is a trifle too promotional. The company is aiming to build a human E3-Ligase whole body atlas, which would indicate amongst other things organ-specific or cell-type specific ligases, which of course is intellectually alluring when it come to develop targeted therapies with little side effects. KYMR has an intriguing (preclinical) pipeline, and (as does NRIX) lucrative alliances with Big Pharma.
I usually shy away from preclinical companies without clinical proof of concept, but I make an exception in the TPD-space. I think that these companies are platform companies, ie with a large area of application of their technology/drugs.
to be continued in part 2
Dr. John- thanks for the updates! It certainly has been a good year!!! Which you and I both know, having been in the ‘game’ awhile; probably means some tougher times ahead. And great back and forth between you and ByeHl. Welcome aboard. Dr John knows his stuff. He knows the ‘science’ like none other. I’ve earned my degree from his posts over the years!’ He isn’t always right. But he very often is! Sometimes his timing is a little early. Such might be the case with CRVS. I just think it may be too early. But then again, this may be the time to pick up shares when they are so ‘cheap’. Dr John the market seems to love the results TGTX put out today. It is turning into one of my best stocks ever!
So far, so good.
Bio-Techne had another stellar quarter and is finishing another stellar year, thanks to a shrewd acquisition strategy.
To think of 1: All (or almost all) or the companies Biotechne acquired during these past 5+ years have turned out to be stunning winners. Kudo to CK and his team.
To think of 2: One could buy shares in February at a price of 160-170 USD. The SP almost doubled since then.
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Bio-Techne reached an all time high at 320.30
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Yahoo Finance Insights
Bio-Techne reached an all time high at 353.32
Hi Dr. John, I noticed that after-hours yesterday, AUPH announced they failed the dry-eye candidate they were developing. I only have a very tiny current position in AUPH. Would now be the time to add on weakness? Or would you just hold? Or do you think it is time to sell and move on?
Yahoo Finance Insights
Bio-Techne reached an all time high at 342.98
Yahoo Finance Insights
Bio-Techne is up 4.97% to 332.75
Good bye 2018, hello 2019...
For most of us, 2018 has been an "annus horribilis", for me even more so (due to individual judgment errors with performance shattering consequences (pex: MDXG), broad based declines in the biotech sector (pex FPRX) and in the cyclical sector (pex: HUN), which could not have been overcome by the stellar performance of individual stocks (FMI, NOVT, GHDX, BGNE (sold at 150-180), NBIX (sold at 108, reentered at 79) SGEN, CELG (re-entry short before buyout).
I continue to be happy with big long term holdings, such as Bio-Techne (TECH 163 USD) or Becton Dickinson (BDX 242 USD).Taking advantage of the low prices end 2018, I have started (or added to) positions in Danaher (DHR, 105 USD, my buying price ca 96), Mettler Toledo (605 USD, my buying price ca 560), or -again- Gilead (GILD 69 USD, my price 69, after nomination of O'Day as CEO). I also bought (again) a moderate amount of Sage (SAGE 139 USD, my average price 102), Sarepta (SRPT 120 USD, ca my entry price) Madrigal (MDGL ca 117 USD, slightly above my entry price) and NBIX.
Outside of healthcare/life science I initiated (or added to) some of my larger positions (many of them still in the red): Global Payment (GPN, at 114, my average price 120), Huntsman (HUN, ca 22 USD, m average price 24.5), International Game Technology (IGT, currently at 15, my average price 21(!): I don't quite understand the extent to which IGT has been decimated. It is a solid cash generator, can service its debt, trades at 7.2x EBITDA and is currently yielding 5.2%.
Whats new on the horizon for 2019?
Above from all the companies mentioned above, I'd like to mention 2 more companies in the molecular diagnostics/molecular research business: Nanostring (NSTG, ca 20 USD, MC 625m, cash 95m, debt 50 m, revenue 110m, EPS still negative) and Quanterix, which I mentioned here before at 16.5 USD (QTRX, ca 20 USD, MC 460 mill, revenue 2018 ca 33mill, cash 50 mill, debt 7mill, EPS still negative). both companies have intriguing products on the market with best-in-class features and a significant untapped market in front of them. --> more details on NSTG and QTRX to be followed in next posts
Well, for one, Bio-Techne had another stellar quarter. Quite impressive how this team delivers! Could not think of a better longe term holding (for me it is indeed: bought my first shares in the last century).
Then, Quanterix (QTRX, ca 35 USD, MC 1.1B) and Nanostring (NSTG, 38 USD, MC ca 1.4B) are delivering as well, despite Covid19. Still plenty of room ahead for both, especially for QTRX.
For a change, my large "pure" biotech positions are all doing well. Chemocentryx (CCXI, 54.5 USD) came back some 20%, which is deserved, because the stock got ahead of itself at 65 (Isold 20% and bought more AUPH instead). Aurinia (AUPH, 14.5 USD) is too cheap at a MC of 1.8B. The same goes for TG Therapeutics (TGTX 22.5 USD, MC 2.85B), even though the stock is doing ok this year.
Ovid (OVID) did well since I first mentioned it 8 months ago (then at 3.9USD, now at 7.9, MC 450m). I continue to hold my shares, since I am in mainly because of the epilepsy program. But it is a risky position: Angelmann trial results should be out relatively soon. If they disappoint, the stock will take a heavy beating (if the are positive: the contrary)
The biggest disconnect between share price and pipeline value is in Corvus Pharmaceutical (CRVS, ca 4USD, MC ca 110m): I do not understand, how the financial community does not appreciate the potential of CPI-006 in Covid-19. Is it because Corvus is seen as a Oncology company? Is it just flying below the radar? As I said before, I usually shy away from "Covid stocks". Sure, we have only very scant results for CPI-006 in Covid19. However these results are both remarkable and outstanding. Index patient: Advanced NSCLC, tested positive for acute Covid infection, mortality risk with Covid expected to be 40%: Receiving CPI-006 (oncology study), produces anti SARS-Cov-2 titres of >1:50'000 (including domain binding region (DBR), clears virus in 1 week, remains asymptomatic. This patient could be an outlier, for sure. However, the first patients in the recently started phase 1 study (CPI-006 in Covid 19 infected patients with PCR results positive <7d), showed exactly the same pattern: production of massive anti-virus titres, including against the RBD within 7 days, increasing even more at 14 days. BTW, these patients were receiving the lowest dose of CPI-006, which was >50times lower than the dose given to the NSCLC patient. Titres of the magnitude of 1:100'000 are bound to contain significant amount of neutralising abs, and I just cannot imagine how these titres should not have a significant influence of the speed of virus clearing, and consequently a positive impact on outcome. If this were not the accepted thinking, why would Regeneron & Co develop monoclonal abs against the RBD of the spike protein? What Corvus is doing, is giving a one shot immune booster (activating CD73), which, in turn, activates B-cells, "transforms" them into memory B Cells and Plasma-cells (which are secreting abs against SARS-Cov2). CPI-006 could not only be used in early stage (or even late stage) Covid 19, but would also make tremendous sense also as adjuvans to vaccinations, or used in the preventive setting with populations at risk.
I have been sorely wrong before, p.ex. when I bet a large sum on Mimedx (MDXG), just to see it fall from 15 to 1. (Well I had bought my first shares at 1, and bought again when the new management team came in at average 4. Now we are again >6, but still a long way to go). However, with Corvus I take again a large but calculated risk, making it in my 4th largest "pure play biotech position" (average price at about 4.1 USD)(The 5 largest positions are: TGTX>AUPH>TPTX>CRVS>CCXI). If, as I expect, most patients in the phase 1 study will show large increases in anti-SARS-CoV2 titres (results will be due in November), then the market cap will not be 100mill but 1B. And that's only for starters...
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BioTechne has become expensive (P/S 11, P/EBIT 36!), but so are many other life science companies as well. IMO, it makes sense to hold long term on high quality companies, such as TECH, even if valuations sometimes get rich. (okay, unless valuations become extreme, such as in 2000).
One competitor of Techne's Protein Simple business unit is Quanterix (QTRX, currently at 16.7 USD (first mentioned on this mb about 1 m ago, at ca 15 USD), MC 370m, EV 290m). Quaterix' SIMOA assay/technology allows for an increased sensitivity of 3 orders of magnitude of detecting proteins (and in future also RNA, DNA) in the blood. SIMOA (=single molecule array) allows to detect trget molecules at fg/ml level, due to the ability to trap molecules in femtoliter sized wells of its array, thus allowing for detection of single molecules. Why is this interesting? Because it allows for "non-invasive" measurement of molecules (proteins) in the blood at levels, which up to now could not be measured with conventional instruments (due to their lower sensitivity, ie at pg/ml -ng/ml level). Therefore, markers for pre-symptomatic diseases states can be followed, which up to now were not accessible. This is promising not only for academic R&D, but may -almost inescapably- play a prominent role in future drug trials, disease follow-up, etc. Neurology, with its blood brain barrier (BBB) is on of the most interesting fields: tiny elevations of brain derived proteins pex Nf-L, Tau, Beat amyloid...), which in a disease (especially at early/pre-symptomatic levels) are elevated in the spinal fluid can now be measured in the blood as well (at fg/ml levels), thus giving a new opening to doing R&D and clinical follow up of some of the most important neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer's (AD), brain concussion, etc. An recent publication in Brain shows the potential of the SIMOA technology in MS: Nf-L measurements in the blood correlated not only with disease activity, but also with brain and spinal cord atrophy up to 5 years later (brain atrophy and spinal cord atrophy are the most important predictors of disability in MS). Importantly, Nf-L measurements predicted disease course as well or better than brain-MRI does (and at lower costs). Taking the example of MS, it is likely that in future Nf-L SIMOA measurements will be "mandatory" not only for drug studies, but also in the clinical practice for monitoring patients and in the decision process whether to escalate treatment in a given MS- patient. Similar scenarios are likely in the dementias (pex AD).
QTRX has a sound management team an BOD (including ex-Fisher Scientific and ex Bayer CEO M.Dekkers). It's growth has been accelerating (40-50%) and will do so even more in future due to increasing scientific publications, such as the Brain paper mentioned above. Revenue is:a) 40% consumables, 35% instruments; b) 60% US, 30% Europe, 10% Asia; c) 60% Pharma-Biotech, 40% Academia; d) 70% Neurology, 15% Oncology, the rest inflammation, cardiology etc; Head count is ca 150, whereof 40% in commercial/sales. Half year 2018 revenues were 16 m (vs 10.5 in the first half 2017) and the company expects to grow in the next couple of years by at least 40%. They are not yet cash flow positive. They have ca 60+ mill cash and no significant debt. The CEO owns ca 900'000 shares, Biomerieux 2 Mio shares. I think the path to success is quite clearly written, but it will be the long term story which is particularly interesting.
A word on my big loosers: I added some 15-20 % of TSRO at 27.5. At ca 32 it is unbelievably cheap im eyes. Wait&see.
With MDXG, I'll not add or sell unless there is news of a) new CEO and b) audited results. I still believe that the business is sound and 90% of what the old management team did was ok, but it is hard to keep confidence, when the top 3 had to quit.
A while ago I sold my Radius (RDUS) at ca 36 (at a loss). Now I bought some back at 20.5. Also too cheap to ignore, IMO. By the way, BB-Biotech added to both, TSRO and RDUS at higher prices in the first Q.
As to Five Prime (FPRX, ca 14 USD): continues to trade at a deep discount IMO, but the outlook is promising as ever.
Luckily, not all is bleak: Novanta (NOVT) is continuing its stellar run (now at 76; excellent growth company, diversified markets & end customers, excellent management team), so does Neurocrine (NBIX, currently at 120 USD). Globus Medical (GMED, currently ca 52 USD) had good Q results as well and is a good quality company. Seattle genetics (SGEN, currently at 76) is doing just fine as well (could be had not long ago for 50 USD).
All in all a horrible 2018 for me (down almost 15%), took my portfolio to the beginning of 2017... ah well, as the Austrians use to say: It's catastrophic but nothing serious.
What else? Took positions a while ago in the 3 CRISPR companies (CRSP >EDIT = NTLA). Long term holdings. Too much potential to stay aside...
If only TEUM loyalists knew how long Ipass courted CTXS...Long time...CTXS does business with TEUM because the finances look way better....THERE IS MORE TO COME!! #TECH DATA IS LIKLEY NEXT..
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