November 12, 2019

Q3 2019 Share Price Performance

Healthcare Stocks – Choppy Stalling Pattern Continues

In this blog post, the Bloom Burton equity research team summarizes the performance of the Canadian healthcare sector during 3Q-2019, and provides commentary on select stock movements and overall market trends.

Inclusion Criteria

Our analysis includes all Canadian publicly-listed healthcare companies, defined as companies that are Canadian headquartered and/or listed on Canadian exchanges, with an enterprise value (EV) of C$10 MM or greater. Our definition of healthcare includes companies operating in the following areas: therapeutic R&D; commercial therapeutics; healthcare services; healthcare IT; medical devices; medical supplies; diagnostics; and consumer health. We do not include medical cannabis producers (unless they are developing cannabis-based products under the traditional drug development regulatory process) or companies that operate long term care facilities. Based on these criteria we identified 87 companies.

We classify companies as “Tier 1” and “Tier 2” based on their EV – Tier 1 companies are those with EV of >C$100 MM and Tier 2 are those with EV of <C$100 MM (for a complete listing of companies included in Tiers 1 and 2 of Bloom Burton’s “blog universe”, please see Appendix 1 at the end of the blog).

3Q-2019 Performance 

  • The 87 Canadian healthcare companies included in Bloom Burton’s 3Q-2019 blog were collectively down -5.7% in 3Q-2019, underperforming the S&P/TSX Composite Index (+1.7%) and coming in just below the S&P/TSX Venture Composite Index (-4.6%). The disappointing third quarter performance followed similar weakness in 2Q-2019 (Bloom Burton’s 2Q-2019 blog were collectively down -5.6%; S&P/TSX Composite Index up +1.7%; S&P/TSX Venture Composite Index down -6.6%).
  • Since the sector’s most recent high during 3Q-2018, there have been three down quarters (4Q-2018, 2Q-2019 and 3Q-2019), and only one up (1Q-2019). However, the return in 1Q-2019 was particularly strong (Bloom Burton’s 1Q-2019 blog stocks were up +18.4%), rebounding from a lousy 4Q-2018 in lock-step with the broader markets (S&P/TSX Composite Index up +12.4%; S&P/TSX Venture Composite Index up +12.5% in 1Q-2019) thus highlighting the volatility of the sector, amplified by the generally small cap nature of Canadian healthcare, in particular.
  • During 3Q-2019, the broader markets continued to be weighed down by trade tensions between the U.S. and China and concerns over global recession risk. The technology and healthcare sectors were hit particularly hard due to sector-specific factors including expectations of weaker quarterly earnings (due to trade tensions) and the anticipation that drug pricing regulation will dominate the U.S. 2020 presidential election cycle.
  • Among Canadian healthcare companies, smaller Tier 2 companies performed worse than larger Tier 1 companies in the third quarter (down -8.3% vs -0.8% respectively), mostly due to the  “risk off” investor sentiment which has dominated much of 2019 following the end of the first quarter.
  • The performance of Canadian healthcare stocks largely follows that of healthcare stocks south of the border where the NBI performed worse than the NYSE Pharmaceutical Index (DRG) in 3Q-2019 (-8.8% vs -1.9% respectively), and both underperformed the broader U.S. markets (S&P 500 Index up +1.2%; NASDAQ Composite -0.1%). While the large cap pharma companies that make up the DRG continue to face headwinds related to identifying new sources of growth to replace aging blockbuster drugs, they tend to be more stable in volatile markets than biotech companies that make up the NBI.
  • Among the healthcare subsectors in Bloom Burton’s Canadian tracking universe, the best performing subsectors were veterinary (2 companies: +33.6%) and consumer health (6 companies: +10.2%), while the worst performing subsectors were diagnostics (2 companies: – 48.9%) and medical supplies (4 companies: – 26.6%). However, these subsectors contained only a small pool of companies so extreme stock price appreciations/depreciations in a few companies skewed their performance.

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*2Q-2019, 1Q-2019 and FY 2018 values were based on an analysis of 93 companies (30 Tier 1 and 63 Tier 2) that fit the inclusion criteria. 

3Q-2019 Healthcare Stock Performance (%) By Sector:

Tier 1 Company Performance

  • Overall, we included 30 companies in our Tier 1 analysis with EV of $100 MM or greater, which collectively had a 3Q-2019 return of -0.8%.
  • The number of Tier 1 advancers (8) was lower than the number of decliners (22) this quarter.

Notable Tier 1 advancers in the quarter include:

  • Helix Biopharma – The stock rose +332.1% during 3Q-2019, after the company announced it had submitted an IND application for its lead anti-tumour drug, L-DOS47, in prostate cancer, and following the closing of a $7.0 MM private placement.
  • Acasti Pharma – The stock finished 3Q-2019 up +69.2%. In July, the company responded to unusual trading activity which had caused a spike in the share price, stating it was not aware of any new corporate developments that would account for the increased price or trading volume. We believe that, although delayed, Acasti may be riding on the coattails of Amarin’s (NASDAQ:AMRN) positive REDUCE-IT results reported in September 2018 since both companies are focused on omega-3 therapeutics (Amarin – on the market; Acasti – phase 3 with results expected by the end of 2019).

Notable Tier 1 decliners in the quarter include:

  • Resverlogix – The stock was down -78.4% during 3Q-2018, following the announcement of topline results from the BETonMACE phase 3 trial for apabetalone, which did not meet the primary endpoint.
  • Eastwood Bio-Medical Canada – The stock finished 3Q-2019 down -41.0%, continuing the stock price weakness that began in April, when IIROC and the TSX Venture Exchange requested that the company clarify its reported quarterly revenue increases.

Tier 2 Company Performance

  • Overall, we included 57 companies in our Tier 2 analysis (with EV of less than $100 MM), which as a group had a 3Q-2019 return of -8.3%.
  • The number of advancers (17) was lower than the number of decliners (35) this quarter.

Notable advancers in the quarter include:

  • Eastgate Biotech Corp. – The stock was up +98.3% in 3Q-2019, in anticipation, and following the announcement of, the approval to initiate a phase 3 clinical trial of Insugin for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
  • Zomedica Pharmaceuticals – The stock was up +81.5% in 3Q-2019, following the announcement of new hires to the management team and board of directors, and presentation at several investor conferences.
  • iCo Therapeutics – The stock appreciated +75.0% in the quarter, in anticipation of a potential new partner coming onboard for ICO-008 (for bullous pemphigoid) during bankruptcy proceedings for current ICO-008 partner, Immune Pharma.
  • CTT Pharmaceutical Holdings – The stock was up +50.7% in 3Q-2019 due to volatility resulting from low trading volume.

Notable decliners in the quarter include:

  • Aeterna Zentaris – The stock finished 3Q-2019 down -63.8%, continuing the slide from 2Q-2019, following a series of corporate updates, director changes and the announcement of a $5 MM stock offering.
  • StageZero Life Sciences – The stock was down -60.0% in 3Q-2019, following an announcement that the company was expanding its salesforce with a collaboration with Coastal Medical, a $3.7 MM private placement, a corporate update and an investor presentation.
  • VBI Vaccines – The stock was down -55.1% during 3Q-2019, following the reporting of topline results from PROTECT, the pivotal phase 3 study of Sci-B-Vac, its hepatitis B vaccine.
  • Titan Medical – The stock finished 3Q-2019 down -54.5%, after the company announced a stock offering.
  • Theralase Technologies – The stock finished 3Q-2019 down -50.0%, after it announced a $17.3 MM stock offering.
  • Covalon Technologies – The stock was down -47.1% in 3Q-2019, after the company provided a corporate update, which provided news on several fronts, including that a former sales executive in Saudi Arabia was potentially involved in theft of Covalon’s intellectual property.
  • Bionik Laboratories – The stock was down -46.4% in 3Q-2019 due to volatility resulting from low trading volume.


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