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Esperion (ESPR) Q3 Earnings Top, Coronavirus Woes Linger

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Esperion Therapeutics, Inc. (ESPR - Free Report) incurred loss per share of $3.07 per share in the third quarter of 2020, narrower than the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $3.52 per share. The company had incurred loss of $2.52 per share in the year-ago period.

The company generated revenues of $3.8 million, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $3.67 million. The company had recorded revenues of $1.0 million in the year-ago quarter. Sales grew year over year on the back of strong uptake of its drugs in the United States.

Quarter in Details

Esperion launched its first commercial drug — Nexletol — in March followed by Nexlizet in June in the United States. Please note that while Nexletol is a bempedoic acid monotherapy tablet, Nexlizet is a combination of bempedoic acid and Merck’s (MRK - Free Report) Zetia (ezetimibe) that are approved for treating for elevated LDL-C (bad cholesterol).

Though the drugs were launched virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic, sequential script growth for both drugs exceeded 500% during the third quarter as the company achieved high-quality and broad managed care coverage in the United States.

Product revenues were $3.3 million in the third quarter compared with $0.6 million in the previous quarter. However, product sales growth was partially hurt due to significantly fewer patient visits to primary care physicians amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company recordedCollaboration revenues of $0.5 million in the third quarter compared with approximately $1 million in the year-ago quarter.

Both these drugs received approval in Europe in April. In Europe, Nexletol is available as Nilemdo and Nexlizet as Nustendi. Daiichi Sankyo, Esperion’s collaboration partner for Europe, launched the drugs in Germany in November.

Research and development (R&D) expenses decreased 26.9% from the year-ago period to $35.3 million. The decline was mainly due to lower costs, following the completion of enrollment in the ongoing cardiovascular outcomes study (CVOT) study on Nexletol.

Selling, general and administrative expenses (SG&A) were up 164.4% year over year to $48.8 million. The significant increase was primarily due to costs to support commercialization activities for Nexletol and Nexlizet.

As of Sep 30, 2020, Esperion had cash, cash equivalents and investment securities of $215.7 million compared with $300.7 million as of Jun 30, 2020.

2020 Guidance Maintained

Esperion maintained its previously issued guidance for R&D and SG&A costs. The company anticipates R&D expense for 2020 to be in the range of $135-$145 million. SG&A expense guidance was also maintained in the range of $200-$210 million.

Our Take

Esperion beat expectations for both earnings and sales during the third quarter. However, the company stated on its earnings call that it is facing challenges due to COVID-19 related restrictions. Especially lower patient visits to physicians are hampering product sales growth. Moreover, the company didn’t provide revenue guidance due to COVID-19 related uncertainty and does not plan to provide the same prior to 2022. The company tweaked its cash guidance. It had stated on its second-quarter earnings call that its cash resources along with future revenues are sufficient to fund continued operations through profitability. However, this quarter, it stated that the same resources will enable it to fund continued operations, not mentioning any timeline for profitability.

These uncertainties presumably fueled investors’ skepticism, which resulted in a 2.1% decline in Esperion’s shares during after-market hours on Nov 2, despite expectation-beating results. Esperion’s stock has declined 28.8% so far this year compared with the industry’s 6.3% decrease.

Please note that the near-term prospects of the company remain uncertain due to COVID-19. However, the company’s drugs have shown encouraging uptake. Moreover, with the initiation of launch in Europe, revenues are likely to receive a boost going forward. Meanwhile, the company is eligible to receive approximately $1 billion in milestone payments from its partners over the next few years. A collaboration agreement for rest of the world (excluding the United States, Europe and Japan) is likely to be signed by 2020-end. This agreement should also boost the company’s cash resources.

Esperion Therapeutics, Inc. Price, Consensus and EPS Surprise

Esperion Therapeutics, Inc. Price, Consensus and EPS Surprise

Esperion Therapeutics, Inc. price-consensus-eps-surprise-chart | Esperion Therapeutics, Inc. Quote

Zacks Rank & Stocks to Consider

Esperion currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Some better-ranked stocks from the biotech sector include Emergent Biosolutions (EBS - Free Report) and Horizon Therapeutics (HZNP - Free Report) , both sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Emergent Biosolutions’ earnings per share estimates have moved up from $6.58 to $6.61 for 2020 and from $7.62 to $8.42 for 2021 in the past 30 days. The company delivered an earnings surprise of 127.41%, on average, in the last four quarters. The stock has risen 61% so far this year.

Horizon Therapeutics’ earnings per share estimates have increased from $2.86 to $2.94 for 2020 and from $4.34 to $4.50 for 2021 in the past 30 days. The company delivered an earnings surprise of 38.63%, on average, in the last four quarters. The stock has surged 146.4% so far this year.

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