Friday, November 21, 2014

Seeking Alpha: Lexicon Pharmaceuticals Fights On

Nothing has ever been easy for Lexicon Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:LXRX). When the original plan to operate as a generator of knockout-based drug targets for other companies fell through, the company retrenched around the idea of developing its own drugs. After drugs targeted at rheumatoid arthritis and IBD fell through, the company found two much more promising candidates - telotristat etiprate for carcinoid syndrome and sotagliflozin (formerly LX 4211) for diabetes.

Here again, though, the company has encountered unexpected difficulties. Despite a strong profile in Type 2 diabetics with impaired renal function (a large piece of the market) and the possibility of strong efficacy in Type 1 diabetes, Lexicon has not been able to attract a partner to develop the Type 2 indication. This has left the company in a tough spot, forcing it to conserve resources and scramble for the cash it will need to develop the Type 1 diabetes indication on its own.

With the company's recent efforts to raise cash, it does look as though the company can make it through to pivotal data for both of its lead drugs. Whether the company can in fact market them on their own remains to be seen, but for now Lexicon remains what it has long been - a scrappy biotech with ugly financing and seemingly undervalued clinical assets.

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Lexicon Pharmaceuticals Fights On

Seeking Alpha: Microsemi Chugging Along

Microsemi (NASDAQ:MSCC) has always been a different sort of semiconductor company. In an industry where investors pay a lot of attention to leading-edge technologies, Microsemi has historically been better known for less advanced high-reliability products that are often sole-sourced. Where many semiconductor companies are tied heavily to end markets like communications, industrials and consumer products, Microsemi has long been more leveraged to defense and aerospace.

The end result of all of this is that Microsemi shares often seem to zig when others zag. But with the defense, aerospace, and space markets looking stronger into 2015 and the company still building up its underrated FPGA business, Microsemi seems to me to be getting stronger at a time when many investors are worried about the semi space. As I continue to see fair value in the low-to-mid $30's, I continue to believe this is a stock well worth investors' due diligence efforts.

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Microsemi Chugging Along

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Seeking Alpha: Multi-Color's One-Two Growth And Margin Punch

Multi-Color (NASDAQ:LABL) has been on a tear over the last year, up about 50%, and as a shareholder I can't really complain. Over the last few quarters the company has seen not only improving organic growth trends, but better than expected contributions from acquisitions and faster improvements in margins. I do have some concerns that valuation is getting stretched, but margin leverage can unlock additional value and the company has a deep pool of acquisition candidates to augment internal growth efforts.

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Multi-Color's One-Two Growth And Margin Punch

Seeking Alpha: Short-Term Concerns Stacking Up At MSC Industrial

One of the endless debates between investors is whether it is better to move in and out of positions in response to short-term trends or to identify well-run companies with long-term drivers and hold them through thick and thin. I'm generally in the latter camp, but even I will acknowledge that it is harder to argue that industrial distributor MSC Industrial (NYSE:MSM) is a must-buy today.

The fundamental bull theses for MSC Industrial still seem to be in place. MSC Industrial is a well-run distributor with a strong core in metalworking that is looking to leverage its CCSG business to address new industry verticals (beyond manufacturing) and to enter new adjacent markets (like fasteners). On the other hand, the company is seeing margin pressure as it spends on initiatives to drive future growth and sales growth targets may be pressured by weak pricing and increased competition from the likes of Fastenal (NASDAQ:FAST) and other distributors.

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Short-Term Concerns Stacking Up At MSC Industrial

Friday, November 7, 2014

Seeking Alpha: Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Staying Ridiculously Busy

Investors who prefer biotechs with potential platform technologies that can support multiple drug candidates can still find a lot to like in Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ALNY). With the shares up about 60% over the past year, a $6.6 billion-plus market cap, and multiple analysts following the stock, this is no longer an under-the-radar play on RNA interference, but the company's preclinical research efforts continue to produce interesting new candidates while those already in the clinic are showing meaningful potential.

For a company with one late-stage program, it may seem hard to argue that Alnylam shares are seriously undervalued today. At the same time, I would note that trial read-outs later this year and in 2015 could add significant value as investors revise their projected odds of approval and revenue expectations. I continue to hold these shares myself and I certainly think they make sense in a portfolio for investors who are comfortable with the risks that attend biotech stocks.

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Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Staying Ridiculously Busy

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Seeking Alpha: Neurocrine Biosciences Looking Forward To A Big Year

"Hurry up and wait" remains the order of the day for Neurocrine Biosciences (NASDAQ:NBIX). This research-stage biotech has a big year on the way in 2015, with key data expected on both Elagolix and the VMAT2 inhibitor NBI-98854 (or '854). Strong efficacy and safety data could add $7 to $10 per share in value, while disappointing results would certainly have a negative impact on the shares. These shares still look undervalued today, though, and the possibility of new clinical candidates and/or buyout rumors could add a little excitement before year-end.

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Neurocrine Biosciences Looking Forward To A Big Year

Seeking Alpha: BRF's Operational Improvements Shining Through

Brazil's largest food company, BRF SA (NYSE:BRFS), continues to show progress with its self-improvement efforts. Although economic stress on Brazilian consumers has been leading to some trading-down in buying patterns, BRF has offset this with a more profitable SKU mix and an increased focus on operating efficiency. Despite an unexpected change in the company's leadership, the company looks on track with previously announced plans to shift more emphasis to higher-margin processed/packaged products and to prioritize margin and cash flow efficiency.

The biggest problem with BRF shares, apart from the volatility of the Brazilian economic and political environment, is valuation. I do believe that BRF has a plan that can lead the company into the ranks of the multinational packaged food giants, but the shares reflect a lot of optimism. I'm in no rush to sell just because of valuation, but new investors may find it wiser to wait for one of the seemingly inevitable corrections in the Brazilian stock market before stepping to the plate.

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BRF's Operational Improvements Shining Through

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Seeking Alpha: First Cash Continues To Invest For The Long Term

These still aren't the best of times for the pawn/payday lending segment of the specialty lending industry. Gold is setting multiyear lows, limiting jewelry-based pawn lending growth, while Mexico's economic recovery remains slow. First Cash Financial Services (NASDAQ:FCFS) has done alright since my last update, rising more than 2% and beating both the S&P 500 and EZCORP (NASDAQ:EZPW), but lagging Cash America (NYSE:CSH) and not exactly setting the world on fire.

The potential undervaluation here is not necessarily remarkable (in the neighborhood of 10%), but First Cash does appear poised to grow free cash flow at a double-digit rate for many years to come. What's more, management is making use of its cash flow and healthy balance sheet to acquire stores in the U.S. and Mexico at attractive multiples and is likely still considering expansion into additional markets. Weak gold prices and muted retail demand are near-term threats, but I believe First Cash is taking advantage of the present trying times to build its base and position itself for stronger growth down the road.

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First Cash Continues To Invest For The Long Term