LIGAND PHARMACEUTICALS

CEO: John Higgins

Adjusted Net income: $31.7 million in Q3 results.

Revenue: $45.7 million in Q3, with $36.1 million in royalties

Number of employees: 120

Headquarters: San Diego

Year Founded: Formed in 1987 as Progenx

Stock symbol and exchange: LGND on NASDAQ

Company Description: Ligand licenses technologies that aid pharmaceuticals in discovery and development, and does other kinds of drug development partnerships.

Ligand Pharmaceutical’s stock has lost more than half of its value since October, puzzling the company and most analysts, though a vocal minority are skeptical of the company’s pipeline.

Market volatility was a factor in Ligand’s stock performance, but the company sticks out among San Diego biotechs. From Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, the company’s stock went from $272.13 to $135.70, a 50 percent decrease. That was the steepest decline among San Diego life science companies valued at more than $50 million, according to a San Diego Business Journal analysis.

The plummet eclipsed the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index, which fell 20 percent in the same time span. Ligand’s shares fell further by Jan. 16, trading at $110.05, following a short-seller’s report.

Ligand’s stock movement is seemingly tough to square with its latest quarterly results. In November, the company reported adjusted net income of $31.7 million, a 107 percent year-over-year increase. That was on revenue of $45.7 million and royalties of $36.1 million.

Operates on Solid Model

Complicating the matter more, Ligand isn’t a typical biotech prone to sharp expansion or contraction based on how a lead drug does in clinical trials. Instead of that model, the company’s technologies help pharmaceuticals discover and develop medicines, receiving royalties in return. Its repertoire includes other kinds of drug development deals as well.

CEO John Higgins said there wasn’t a major catalyst explaining the drop, but Ligand’s stock “may have gotten ahead of itself” in early September.

“Then the market pulled back pretty abruptly in September, October — macro market, but nothing Ligand specific. But, I will tell you the company is doing very well,” Higgins said.

He pointed to the company recently lifting its calendar-year 2018 revenue outlook to $244 million, along with the company’s cash balance. As of September, Ligand reported $1 billion in cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments.

The sizable war chest should fuel internal research and development — and enables the company to make more acquisitions. Those are two things it does well, said Joseph Pantginis, an analyst with H.C. Wainwright, who like most analysts recently issued a buy rating on the stock.

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