Vaccine Stocks Take Wild Ride Amid Political Clash, Earnings

A geopolitical tug-of-war and quarterly sales that failed to meet sky-high expectations sent some of the leading Covid-19 vaccine developers tumbling this week.

Biotechs including Moderna Inc., BioNTech SE, Novavax Inc., and CureVac NV shed over $30 billion in market value at one point as President Joseph Biden said their patents should be stripped to combat the global pandemic.

It was the first losing week for a basket of vaccine makers in over a month, and matched the largest such loss since late March. Extra trouble could come on Monday, when two more of the vaccine makers are set to report earnings.

Investors are concerned that billions of dollars in sales will be jeopardized if the world opens the floodgates to manufacturing by added firms. But the stocks regained some ground after Europe’s less-than-unanimous embrace of Biden’s proposal. What’s more, analysts said that even with a waiver, other companies can’t simply start whipping up batches of complex Covid vaccines.

“Vaccine manufacturing is analogous to ‘rocket science’ in biological systems, and merely temporarily liberating the patents will have little effect on worldwide manufacturing capacity,” wrote Oppenheimer analyst Hartaj Singh, citing mRNA vaccines like those from Moderna, BioNTech and Pfizer Inc. “What is likely needed is governmental support for current manufacturers to further access raw material supplies, as opposed to fragmenting them.”

Vaccine Stocks Take Wild Ride Amid Political Clash, Earnings

Politics and logistics present another set of hurdles, wrote Morgan Stanley analyst David Risinger. A waiver would have to be negotiated through the World Trade Organization, which could take months, and then building facilities would add to delays, he said.

The political picture remains unsettled, as Germany opposed the waiver and Spain backed the U.S.

While investors will be watching for any further headlines from global leaders, there are plenty of empirical catalysts ahead for the group. BioNTech is scheduled to report quarterly results before the U.S. market opens on Monday, followed by Novavax later that evening. Both will get a chance to discuss prospects for patent protection and provide updates on various studies and production of their shots.

More data is expected shortly on the Novavax and CureVac vaccines, which could provide additional shots to the world and perhaps a booster for the shares. While investors are itching to see the results, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Sam Fazeli warned earlier this week that neither of the newer immunizations is likely to be as effective as those already out from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

The swoon for vaccine stocks hasn’t prompted analysts to pound the table and declare a buying opportunity, but it has brought some share prices closer to what Wall Street sees as fair value. The 12-month price target for Moderna now implies a roughly 4% gain from where it’s hovering around $163. By that same gauge, BioNTech ADRs current level of nearly $184 a share still implies a more than 25% slide.

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