Maxim cuts Keryx Biopharmaceuticals to hold on merger plans

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Maxim Group downgraded Keryx Biopharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:KERX) to “hold” from “buy” and removed its price target after Keryx and Akebia Therapeutics (NASDAQ:AKBA) unveiled a definitive agreement to merge in an all-stock transaction. 

In afternoon trading on Jun 28, shares of Keryx were quoted at $3.77, down 17%, while Akebia was down 12% at $9.10.

“Our concern,” writes analyst Jason McCarthy is that script volume for Keryx’s Auryxia as reported last quarter continues to climb, with U.S. revenue growth in the first quarter of 2018 up 19%, compared with the fourth quarter of 2017.

“With approval for iron deficiency anemia (IDA) and positive signals in the early stage of launch, in our view, Keryx was beginning to turn the corner,” he added. 

“The question then is Auryxia as effective as we thought for IDA, which was a key attribute that supported our bullish position on the company,” Mr. McCarthy said. 

During a conference, Akebia Management discussed the potential for Vadadustat to complement Auryxia, Mr. McCarthy said. “Therefore, the answer may be no,” he added. “Vadadustat data is late 2019 - early 2020.” 

Jennifer Poland