ThromboGenics Hires Morgan Stanley Amid Disappointing Sales

Feb 24, 2014 11:47 am ET

(Updates with closing stock price in fifth paragraph.)

Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) -- ThromboGenics NV, the maker of the Jetrea eye drug, hired Morgan Stanley to explore strategic options after a disappointing introduction of the treatment in the U.S. The shares had their biggest gain ever.

The board aims to tap the “significant potential” of the medicine in that market after sales so far missed the company’s forecasts, Chief Executive Officer Patrik De Haes said in a statement today. “We are starting the strategic exercise with an open mind. We will update the market in due course.”

Jetrea is an injection for vitreomacular adhesion, a vision-destroying condition previously treated with surgery. The drug may be appealing to large pharmaceutical companies with ophthalmology divisions, KBC Securities NV has said. The Heverlee, Belgium-based company has a market value of 808.5 million euros ($1.1 billion) after the shares lost more than half their value from a record set in January last year.

“We find it a positive that the company is seeking help for Jetrea in the U.S.,” Jan De Kerpel, an analyst at KBC, wrote in a report today. “The board is realizing a company of the size of ThromboGenics can’t do it alone -- something that was becoming increasingly clear for us and certain shareholders for already a while.” He raised his rating on the stock to buy from accumulate.

Shares Gain

ThromboGenics surged 19 percent to close at 22.40 euros in Brussels. The advance was the biggest ever for the company, which sold shares in an initial public offering in 2006.

Analysts predict Jetrea sales will total 133 million euros next year, the average of three estimates compiled by Bloomberg. That’s down from an estimate of 221 million euros a year ago.

Almost 7,000 patients have been treated with Jetrea in the U.S. since the drug reached the market in January 2013, ThromboGenics said. Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis AG has the rights to market Jetrea outside the U.S.

ThromboGenics may seek a partnership in the U.S. with a larger drug company that already sells eye treatments there, such as Basel-based Roche Holding AG or Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., De Kerpel wrote. Should Novartis want to form an alliance with ThromboGenics in the U.S., that could involve the Swiss company acquiring ThromboGenics, he said.

Daniel Grotzky, a spokesman for Roche, Anja von Treskow of Novartis and Peter Dworkin, a spokesman for Tarrytown, New York- based Regeneron, all declined to comment.

ThromboGenics forecast in August that second-half U.S. sales of the drug would be about the same as the first half’s 12.5 million euros. ThromboGenics reports second-half earnings on March 17.

--Editors: Thomas Mulier, Tom Lavell