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Keryx (KERX) Inks Merger Deal With Akebia, Shares Fall

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Shares of Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. (KERX - Free Report) went down by about 19% as the company signed a definitive merger agreement with Akebia Therapeutics, Inc. (AKBA - Free Report) , under which the companies will combine in an all-stock merger. The companies are to form a new, fully integrated company focused on chronic kidney diseases (or CKD) called Akebia Therapeutics. The deal is expected to close by the end of 2018, unless any concerns are raised by antitrust authorities or shareholders.

The fall in share price can be attributable to the investors’ reactions as they remain uncertain whether Akebia’s investigational oral drug, vadadustat will win the regulatory approval causing a drop in share price of Keryx. Year to date, shares of Keryx declined 21.9% compared with the industry’s decline of 9%.

If Keryx Biopharmaceuticals manages to completely convert its outstanding convertible notes, the pro forma equity value of the combined company would be $1.3 billion, based on the closing share price of the companies on June 28.

Terms of the Agreement

Under the agreement, which boards of both companies unanimously approved, the transaction will be consummated through an all stock merger. Keryx’s shareholders will receive 0.37433 common shares of Akebia for each share of Keryx they own. The exchange results in implied equity ownership in the combined company of 49.4% for Akebia shareholders and 50.6% for Keryx shareholders on a fully-diluted basis. 

The leadership of the new company will reflect the strengths and capabilities of both Akebia and Keryx. Keryx will add Auryxia, a drug approved by the FDA for hyperphosphatemia in CKD patients dependent on dialysis and for iron deficiency anemia in CKD patients not dependent on dialysis, to Akebia Therapeutics’ product portfolio. Akebia will add an investigational oral drug, vadadustat, which is a phase III oral hypoxia-inducible factor prolyl hydroxylase inhibitor (HIF-PHI) with the potential to advance the treatment of patients with anemia due to CKD, to the combined company’s portfolio. The drug’s addition will give Keryx’s shareholders the access to an innovative phase III product candidate, with the potential to compete in a complementary multi-billion-dollar market upon successful completion of its development program.

John P. Butler, president and chief executive officer of Akebia, is expected to lead the combined company, and Keryx will appoint the chairperson of the board of directors of the combined company. Additionally, Jason A. Amello, Akebia’s chief financial officer, is expected to serve in the same capacity on the management team of the combined company.

 

Zacks Rank & Stock to Consider

Keryx carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Some better-ranked stocks from the same space are Aeglea BioTherapeutics, Inc. (AGLE - Free Report) and ANI Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (ANIP - Free Report) . Both Aeglea and ANI Pharmaceuticals carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Aeglea’s loss per share estimates have narrowed from $1.93 to $1.67 for 2018 and from $3.86 to $3.57 for 2019 over the past 60 days. The company delivered a positive earnings surprise in three of the trailing four quarters with an average beat of 19.32%. The stock has rallied 93.5% so far this year.

ANI Pharmaceuticals’earnings per share estimates have moved up from $5.54 to $5.70 for 2018 and from $5.72 to $6.15 for 2019 over the past 60 days. The company delivered a positive earnings surprise in three of the trailing four quarters with an average beat of 8.69%. The stock has rallied 4.7% so far this year.

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