Opko Health’s New Era Begins : Motley Fool

Following massive investments over the past two years that have swelled spending on research and development and included a slate of acquisitions, Opko Health (NYSE:OPK) could soon be on its way to delivering consistent quarterly profit to shareholders.

Bigger is better
Opko Health’s billionaire founder, Philip Frost, is legendary for orchestrating acquisitions that add value. After acquiring IVAX Pharmaceuticals in the 1980s and then growing it through M&A, he sold the company to TEVA Pharmaceuticals for $7.4 billion in 2005.

Frost could do even better than that with Opko Health.

After inking a slew of deals in the past to boost Opko Health’s drug pipeline, Frost bought the specialty laboratory company Bio-Reference Labs for $1.5 billion this past summer.

Because Bio-Reference Labs is the third largest laboratory services company, with roughly $200 million in pre-acquisition quarterly sales and $0.24 in quarterly pre-deal earnings, the acquisition significantly increases Opko Health’s sales while also giving it valuable cash flow to advance its pipeline and the potential for ongoing profitability.

Delivering on deals
One of Opko Health’s first acquisitions was rolapitant, a phase 3-ready drug that treats chemotherapy-induced vomiting and nausea, that Frost bought from Schering-Plough in 2009.

In 2010, Opko Health turned around and licensed rolapitant to Tesaro (NASDAQ:TSRO) for up to $121 million in milestone payments and tiered double-digit royalties and in September, the FDA-approved rolapitant for use under the brand name Varubi.

Since Tesaro was founded by Lonnie Moulder, the guru who helped launch the successful chemotherapy nausea drug Aloxi, and antinausea drugs like Merck’s Emend generate hundreds of millions of dollars in sales annually, Opko Health could start seeing meaningful revenue from Varubi soon.

Opko Health is also about to find out whether its acquisition of Cytochroma to get its hands on the vitamin D prohormone Rayaldee pays off.

Rayaldee is under FDA review for approval as a therapy to boost vitamin D in patients suffering from chronic kidney disease.

Stages 3, 4, and 5 CKD patients often suffer bone loss tied to imbalances in vitamin D that require treatment and that treatment typically consists of supplements that can deliver vitamin D inadequately or medicines that aren’t all that effective. If approved, Opko Health believes that Rayaldee could offer a better alternative in a market it estimates to be worth $12 billion.

Of course, no one knows how much of that market Rayaldee can capture, but investors should get a better idea next year given that the FDA’s decision on Rayaldee is expected on March 29.

Opko Health’s long-acting human growth hormone, hGH-CTP, which can be dosed once weekly instead of daily like current therapies, is also nearing the finish line.

The company acquired hGH-CTP when it bought Prolor for $480 million and earlier this year, Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) inked a deal that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Opko Health, plus royalties and potential profit sharing.

Specifically, to protect the market share for its human growth hormone Genotropin, Pfizer paid Opko Health $295 million in up-front cash and agreed to pay another $275 million in potential milestones, plus royalties, to license hGH-CTP. Pfizer also agreed to split profit on Genotropin with Opko Health if hGH-CTP notches approval for use in children.

Results from hGH-CTP’s phase 3 trial are anticipated in the second half of 2016 and if those results are good and hGH-CTP eventually wins the FDA go-ahead, then it will compete in a market worth over $3 billion annually.


Looking forward
Opko Health’s C-suite is packed with former IVAX leaders, including Jane Hsiao, who is vice chairman and worked at IVAX with Frost for more than a decade, and Steven Rubin, Opko Health’s executive vice president, who worked at IVAX for five years.

That team appears to have cobbled together an intriguing mix of drugs, products, and services and their efforts could soon pay off.

Given Opko Health’s upcoming catalysts including Varubi royalties, Rayaldee’s FDA decision, and hGH-CTP late-stage trial results, 2016 is shaping up to be a critical year for Opko Health that investors shouldn’t ignore.


Baltic Dry Index Keeping Iron OreMiners Afloat

AS OF 08:03 EDT

These are nervous times for iron ore producers.

Fortescue Metals, the fourth-largest miner of the steel-making material, starts to lose money if prices at Chinese ports fall below $39 a metric ton. After a 37 percent drop this year, Metal Bulletin’s benchmark is now just 16 cents above its record-low $44.59 a ton.


So it’s no surprise the Australian company’s chief executive officer, Nev Power, is pulling every lever to keep his red dirt in the black. He’s reducing the cost of mining, processing and then hauling the ore to port to $15 a ton from its current $18 a ton, according to a presentation last month. Interest expenses add another $4 a ton, so Fortescue announced Nov. 10 a tender offer aimed at paying back as much as $750 million ofdebt early.  Beyond that, he’s looking at developing a joint venture with Baosteel and Formosa Plastics to produce magnetite, according to Bloomberg’s David Stringer. That variety of iron ore requires costly processing but attracts a higher price and a lower government royalty tax than the hematite Fortescue mines at present.

One unexpected benefit comes from the Baltic Dry index, a benchmark for the cost of hiring freight ships that dipped below 500 on Friday for the first time since it started in 1985. When China’s industrial demand was strong, the cost of both raw materials and the ships used to transport them soared. Now that it’s slumping, commodity prices and ship rates will have to fall to clear supply gluts built up during the boom.

Looking at the cost of hiring a Capesize ore carrier gives you a sense of the benefit:

Flat Iron
The cost of hiring a large ore carrier has been slumping
Source: Baltic Exchange

Fortescue probably pays more than the current spot rate so as to reserve its cargo space and lock in prices for months at a time, but the benchmark is a good guide to the general direction of its expenses. A Capesize vessel carrying up to about 170,000 metric tons of iron ore will spend some 30 days making the round trip to deliver its cargo and get back to port, judging by the last voyage of the Bulk Prosperity, a bulker owned by China Development Bank that anchored off Australia’s Port Hedland on Monday after returning from Qingdao.

At current rates of $4,713 a day, transport on the spot market for the whole voyage would come to about 83 cents a metric ton on a fully laden ship. 12 months earlier, the day rate was $22,192, and transport was $3.92 a ton. When you’re only making $5.75 a ton of profit, as Fortescue is now, that’s a significant difference.

There’s potentially a virtuous circle here for iron ore producers. With operating costs for a capesize vessel averaging about $7,400 a day, according to consultancy Moore Stephens, shipowners are mostly losing money at current rates. But the alternative is less attractive these days, too. Thanks to that glut of iron ore, breaking up a ship and turning it into steel scrap only nets about half what it did a couple of years ago:

Breaking Up Is So Very Hard to Do
Low scrap prices are making it more difficult to remove ships from the market
Source: Metal Bulletin

That may keep more vessels on the market and ensure shipping costs stay lower for longer, helping iron ore miners stay in the black.

Don’t get too comfortable. Companies only book a ship if they have real cargo to move, so there’s no speculative activity in the Baltic Dry to take the edge off price swings. The index almost doubled during June and July and Capesize rates were above $14,000 a day as recently as September. Fortescue’s cushion is thin enough now that even a small spike could leave investors feeling sore.


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Hedge Funds Are Back to Bearish on Gold as Price Slump Deepens : Preparing For – $1000



  • Money managers hold first net-short position since August
  • Assets in global bullion ETPs drop to lowest since 2009

Prices are trapped in their worst rout since July as Federal Reserve officials talk up improvements for the U.S. economy and reinforce signs that they’re ready to raise borrowing costs for the first time since 2006. That prospect has sent investors fleeing. Assets in exchange-traded products backed by gold have fallen to the lowest since 2009. Money managers are holding a net-short position in the metal for first time since August as their long wagers shrunk to the smallest in seven years.

The bears are being rewarded after futures last week dropped to a five-year low. The outlook for increasing borrowing costs poses a few hurdles for gold. Because the metal doesn’t pay interest, it loses out to competing assets, such as bonds. At the same time, higher rates usually favor a stronger dollar and cut demand for alternatives, while a strengthening economy means investors are less interested in bullion as a haven. More than $6.5 billion was wiped from the value of gold ETPs since mid-October.

“Gold is dead in the water and is an asset class that should be avoided,” said Chad Morganlander, a Florham Park, New Jersey-based money manager at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., which oversees about $170 billion. “We continue to believe that dollar strength will be an anchor on metals, and in particular on gold.”

Fund Wagers

Futures have dropped 9.1 percent in 2015 to $1,076.30 an ounce on the Comex in New York. Prices fell for five straight weeks, the longest slide since July 24. The net-short position in gold futures and options was 8,989 contracts in the week ended Nov. 17, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data released three days later show. That compares with a net-bullish position of 21,530 contracts a week earlier. Investors trimmed their long holdings to 92,318, the smallest since December 2008.

Bullion, long considered a haven during times of geopolitical turmoil, failed to sustain brief gains last week following the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris that left 129 people dead and injured another 352. In addition to being ignored by investors, the metal is suffering from weak physical demand, particularly in India, which vies with China as the world’s top bullion buyer. Valcambi, one of Switzerland’s largest gold refiners, projects annual Indian imports of 850 metric tons. That’s down from the average 875 tons in the past five years.

“Investors have become somewhat inured with terrorism,” Jack Ablin, chief investment officer in Chicago for BMO Private Bank, which oversees $68 billion, said by telephone. “They just see it as an ongoing risk, but a single event is not enough to derail an economy or a market, so investors have chosen to ignore it.”

Gold is heading for a third straight annual loss amid speculation that the Fed will soon start tightening monetary policy.Minutes from the Fed’s October meeting released last week showed officials stressed that “it may well become appropriate” to raise the benchmark lending rate in December. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts led by Jeffrey Currie said they expect bullion to extend losses over the next 12 months, according to a report on Nov. 18.

Paulson Stake

The slump hasn’t deterred billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson. His firm, Paulson & Co., left its holding in the SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s biggest bullion ETP, unchanged in the third quarter, a government filing showed Nov. 16.

While traders are pricing in a more than two-thirds chance of a rate increase in December, the Fed minutes showed policy makers largely agree that the pace of increases will be gradual. The rate outlook may already be “absorbed by the market for now,” Karvy Commodities Broking said in a report Friday.

“The Fed has made it clear they are likely to hike in December — they’ve also telegraphed that they are going to move very slowly from thereafter, so there’s a little less enthusiasm for the dollar,” said Dan Heckman, national investment consultant in Kansas City, Missouri, at U.S. Bank Wealth Management, which oversees about $126 billion. Still, “we have a very low inflation and a very low-growth environment, and it’s hard to make a case for gold.”

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$20 Oil If OPEC Doesn’t Act : Venezuela

  • Don’t Cry for Me Venezuela
  • It won’t be easy, you’ll think it strange
    When I try to explain how I feel
    That I still need your love after all that I’ve doneI had to let it happen, I had to change
    Couldn’t stay all my life down at heel
    Looking out of the window, staying out of the sun
  • OPEC member seeks `equilibrium price’ of $88 a barrel
  • Saudis, Qatar to consider proposal, Venezuelan minister says

Oil prices may drop to as low as the mid-$20s a barrel unless OPEC takes action to stabilize the market, Venezuelan Oil Minister Eulogio Del Pino said.

Venezuela is urging the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to adopt an “equilibrium price” that covers the cost of new investment in production capacity, Del Pino told reporters Sunday in Tehran. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are considering his country’s proposal for an equilibrium price at $88 a barrel, he said.

OPEC ministers plan to meet on Dec. 4 to assess the producer group’s output policy amid a global supply glut that has pushed down crude prices by 44 percent in the last 12 months. OPEC supplies about 40 percent of the world’s production and has exceeded its official output ceiling of 30 million barrels a day for 17 months as it defends its share of the market. Benchmark Brent crude settled 48 cents higher at $44.66 a barrel in London on Friday.

“We cannot allow that the market continue controlling the price,” Del Pino said. “The principles of OPEC were to act on the price of the crude oil, and we need to go back to the principles of OPEC.”

OPEC ministers will meet informally on Dec. 3 in Vienna, a day before the group’s formal session, he said.

Baltic Dry Index At New Low : Shipping Sector Sinking Lower

LONDON, Nov 20 (Reuters) – A slump in dry bulk shipping is set to worsen as the meltdown in global commodities and too many ships free for hire rock the sector used by investors to gauge the health of world trade.

Slower coal and iron ore demand from China – the world’s biggest industrial importer – have battered the dry bulk sector, already in the midst of its worst ever downturns that is expected to extend well into next year.

This week the Baltic Exchange’s main sea freight index , which tracks rates for ships carrying dry bulk commodities and seen by investors as a forward-looking indicator of global industrial activity, plunged to an all-time low.

A slump in oil and other commodity prices, due to slowing Chinese demand, has widely been seen as one of the reasons for U.S. Federal Reserve hesitancy in tightening policy.

“Dry bulk demand is very much dependent on the world economy,” said Symeon Pariaros, chief administrative officer of Athens-run and New York-listed shipping firm Euroseas.

“The slowdown in the world economy has caused both dry bulk and container shipping to suffer a lot lately. Euroseas, having exposure in both these sectors, is facing the consequences of this very low rate environment.”

There have already been casualties. In September, Japanese bulk carrier Daiichi Chuo Kisen Kaisha filed for protection from creditors. This followed private equity backed Global Maritime Investment Cyprus Ltd, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States.

While prospects for commodities markets are shaky, the dry bulk freight players will also need to contend with more ship deliveries hitting the water in coming months.

“More vessels have to be scrapped, no additional newbuildings (new ship orders) and further delay deliveries – all these take time, more than one year, implying that in the interim the market will be ugly, and a great number of shipowners will not have the cash to bridge the weak market,” said Basil Karatzas, head of New York consultancy and brokerage Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.

“Some may be flexible to get money from funds for working capital … and otherwise sacrifice some equity to save the business, but many small shipowners will be washed out.”

Canadian Agnico -One Gold Miner Winner : Bloomberg

Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. is emerging as the winner in the race to shield profit from slumping gold prices.

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Since gold began a more than 40 per cent plunge from a 2011 peak, the miner’s gross margins have narrowed by just 1.9 per cent thanks to expansions and a strengthening U.S. dollar. For every dollar of gold Agnico Eagle sold last quarter, 49 US cents was gross profit, little changed from four years ago when gold touched US$1,900. That’s the best performance among 15 major producers tracked by Bloomberg, whose margins compressed by an average 64 per cent.

“We’ve generated net free cash flow this year because of those margins, and it’s not at the expense of squeezing our key development projects or our exploration budgets,” Chief Executive Officer Sean Boyd said in an interview in Toronto. “And we still managed to reduce our net debt by almost US$200 million.”

It hasn’t always been that way. The Toronto-based company struggled to bring five mines on stream between 2008 and 2010, missing production and cost guidance. In 2011, it suspended mining at Goldex in Quebec because of flooding and rock instability.

But in 2012, the company turned a corner. Since then, operational and exploration success coupled with acquisitions have helped turn things around, according to Josh Wolfson, an analyst with Dundee Capital Markets, who has a buy recommendation on the stock and a share price target of $44. In 2014, it joined with Yamana Gold Inc. to buy Osisko Mining Corp., giving it the Canadian Malartic gold mine in Northern Quebec.

Production Surges

The stock has gained 21 per cent this year in Toronto, the most among members of the BI Global Senior Gold Valuation Peers Index, which is down 30 per cent. Partly as a result, it’s the most expensive member at 66 times estimated earnings. Agnico Eagle closed up 5.2 per cent to $35.10 on Wednesday for a market value of $7.6 billion (US$5.7 billion).
“This was not a pretty story a couple of years ago,” Wolfson said by telephone. “They’ve been not only coping with the current environment, they’ve also been improving the business.”

A surge in production has supported margins through the gold downturn. On October 28, the company raised its 2015 gold production guidance to 1.65 million ounces from 1.6 million.

Gold price sinks to fresh five-year low
Investors zero in on costs again as gold miners set to report Q3 results
For many miners, there’s no avoiding the gold ‘production cliff’ now
Currency Supports

It’s also benefited from currency weakness in all three countries in which it operates: Canada, Finland and Mexico. In the third quarter, the Canadian dollar, euro and Mexican peso were eight, four and 23 per cent lower, respectively, than the company’s 2015 assumptions, it said in its third-quarter earnings statement.

The combination of higher production and currency gains lowered third-quarter total cash costs per ounce on a by-product basis to US$536 from US$716 a year earlier. Reduced costs, combined with lower capital expenditure and general and administrative costs, knocked Agnico Eagle’s all-in-sustaining costs down to US$759 from US$1,059, the company said. Weaker currencies were responsible for US$39 an ounce of the latter reduction, the company said in an e-mail.

They’ve been not only coping with the current environment, they’ve also been improving the business
Agnico Eagle also managed to keep its investment grade rating, even through last year’s purchase of Osisko, and benefits from a high average reserve grade, Boyd said. The average reserve grade of its portfolio is 2.4 grams per tonne compared to an industry average of 1.2 grams. In 2014, the company ran a test on their reserve numbers assuming $1,000 gold and found they dropped only six percent, he said.

Portfolio Strength

Potential risks for the company are “quite negligible,” with the only real worry being some sort of black swan event at an existing mine, according to Michael Siperco, an analyst with Macquarie Capital Markets Canada Ltd. He cited the 2011 Goldex shutdown as an example, but added that Agnico Eagle’s portfolio is much stronger now.

“There isn’t one big development project that they’re trying to get done, there isn’t a massive need for new capital,” he said by telephone.

Of the 25 analysts covering the stock, 20 have the equivalent of a buy rating, three recommend holding and two say sell, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The company had total net debt of US$1.2 billion at the end of the third quarter, consisting of US$850 million of fixed rate debt and US$350 million drawn on its variable rate revolving line of credit.

Cost Cuts

Given low gold prices, the company’s debt is still a concern, although “they’re in a much better position then their peers,” Wolfson said.

CEO Boyd sees more room to cut costs while still boosting production. The company’s focus now is on containing debt and developing existing assets.

“Five years from now we could be producing 30 per cent more gold,” he said. “We have the projects. The question will be, in this environment, the pace at which we move towards that expanded output level.”

Bloomberg News

Americans: Pay Your Back Taxes—or lose your passport ? click on headline to read more at The Tax Haven Guru

Goldman Sachs Picks Apple

Apple’s shares are going to soar 43%: Goldman Sachs


Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) share price could see a 43 percent rise over the next 12 months as investors shift their focus on the amount of iPhones the company is selling to the number of services it is getting users to pay for, Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) said in a note on Wednesday.

The U.S. investment bank has put a $163 price target on Apple’s stock, up from Tuesday’s close price of $113.69 and added it to its “conviction buy list”.

Goldman says Apple currently trades like a “hardware stock” at an 11 times price-to-earnings ratio (P/E), but with the company introducing services such as Apple Music, it will become more akin to Google or Facebook.

“Apple’s multiple embodies the scars from prior fallen giants in hardware (Motorola, Nokia, BlackBerry, and HP, to name a few). However, we think Apple’s business model has less in common with traditional hardware companies, and more in common with companies that monetize mobile users through content and services,” Goldman Sachs said in a note.

“In addition, the recurring nature of Apple’s relationship with a customer base that consumes content and services exclusively through Apple’s hardware has similarities to service providers such as AT&T or Comcast; these similarities are becoming more pronounced with Apple’s new installment plan model for the iPhone, and its expected launch of a live TV service.”

Apple’s stock took a hit earlier this year amid concerns that iPhone growth was slowing. While Goldman agrees, it estimates Apple will still have an install base of 700 million in 2017, up from 500 million currently. The investment bank also notes that it is user base is very loyal and spend much more than Google’s Android users. This year, Apple will generate $467 in revenues per iPhone user, above Google’s $44 and Facebook $11, Goldman said.

Related Quotes

Apple Inc.

But Apple is still trading at a discount, a view that is likely to change as the idea of “Apple-as-a-service” emerges.

Apple recently launched Apple Music, which costs $9.99 a month, and is rumored to launch an on-demand TV product next year which Goldman said could be around $40 a month. Given the number of services being launched by Apple, the average revenue per user (ARPU) could be as much as $150.

“We calculate a current ARPU of $42/mo per iPhone user, pro rata for the current adoption rates of Mac, iPad, Watch, and services. The theoretical ARPU (assuming every iPhone user has all other Apple hardware products and services) is $153/mo, implying significant growth potential as the adoption of Apple hardware and services increases within the user base,” Goldman noted.

And this will be the driver of Apple’s share price over the next year.

“We think that view will start to shift in 2016 as Apple’s revenues become increasingly sticky and recurring with the launch of installment plans and a TV service, and we would use the near-term concerns over a y-o-y (year-over-year) unit decline as very attractive buying opportunity for the re-rating of Apple from a hardware stock (11X P/E) to a content and services platform (15X P/E),” Goldman’s analysts wrote.