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UCB: New chairman, Vimpat and rating upped

UCB: New chairman, Vimpat and rating upped

23.9.2011 10:04

There are several news items on UCB. The company announced a new chairman of the board, a syrup version of Vimpat is being withdrawn from the European market and we up our rating from Hold to Accumulate.

New chairman of the board:
Current chairman Karel Boone will step down in April 2012 (reaching the age of 70y), and Austrian Gerhard Mayr has been elected as new chairman. Mr Mayr has been an independent member of the UCB board since 2005. Till 2004, he was the EVP of pharmaceutical operations at Eli Lilly (36,56 USD, -1,48%). He is also a board member of Lonza.
After a long tradition of Belgian chairmen, the board has chosen a non-Belgian citizen. We welcome the board’s decision to elect Mr Mayr who combines long-term pharma leadership with international experience. It shows that the board is dedicated to further develop UCB as an international biopharmaceutical company. According to transparency declaration in April of this year, Mr Mayr bought UCB shares worth ~€ 500k.

Vimpat syrup no longer available in Europe:
Yesterday, the EMA commended the discontinuation of Vimat 15mg/ml syrup following a voluntary recall of UCB. The recall was initiated because of unwanted precipitation of the active ingredient in the flasks. Patients are recommended to shift to the Vimpat tablets or the 10mg/ml liquid formulation (which is sold in the USbut could be used in the EU on a named basis and is currently under review).

The news of the syrup recall became public in July but is not triggering changes to our forecasts because the syrup version represents less than 1% of the Vimpat sales in 1H11 (less than € 1m out of € 97m) . Moreover, the 10mg/ml formulation is currently under review by the CHMP and provides a good alternative for those patients who cannot be shifted to the tablets.

Rating upped from Hold to Accumulate, target € 32 maintained:
Following the recent share price decline, we increase our rating. We believe in the current macro-economical turmoil, UCB has shown to be attractive for investors looking for crisis resilient investment opportunities.

We are positive on UCB’s mid to long-term prospects based on the company’s CVN product uptake and several promising development stage molecules in large disease areas (anti-sclerostin for bone disease (phase 2), brivaracetam for epilepsy and epratuzumab for lupus (phase 3)). With no binary events expected from the pipeline or regulatory decisions, we see limited downward risk from operations in the short term, which is attractive in the current difficult economic climate.

On the financials, 2011 is the last transition year. Despite the solid 1H11 results, and although 2H11 will inevitably suffer from fierce generic erosion on mature products, we feel the financial guidance is conservative and well achievable. We expect a long-term top-line and earnings growth as of 2012.

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