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InterMune Inc., Novartis, Celgene Corporation, Targacept Inc. and Agenus Inc. highlighted in Zacks Analyst Blog

CHICAGO, Jan. 17, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include InterMune Inc. (ITMN), Novartis (NVS), Celgene Corporation (CELG), Targacept Inc. (TRGT) and Agenus Inc. (AGEN).

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Today, Zacks is promoting Four daily picks are offered free.

Here are highlights from Thursday's Analyst Blog:

InterMune to Raise Funds

InterMune Inc. (ITMN) recently announced its intention to raise funds through concurrent underwritten public offerings. InterMune intends to offer convertible senior notes (due 2017) of around $85 million along with 12.5 million shares of its common stock.

Underwriters are expected to have 30-day options to purchase an additional $12.75 million aggregate principal amount of convertible senior notes plus up to 1.9 shares of common stock in association with the offerings.

InterMune had $351.4 million as cash, cash equivalents and available-for-sale securities at the end of September 30, 2012.

We note that InterMune exited third quarter of 2012 with outstanding 5.00% convertible senior notes (due 2015) of $84.1 million. The company expects to use the net proceeds from the offerings to repay its outstanding convertible senior notes.

Moreover, InterMune also intends to use the funds for Esbriet's (pirfenidone) commercialization. We remind investors that Esbriet is now successfully priced and launched in 9 of its 15 targeted European countries. InterMune plans to start launching Esbriet in the remaining six countries in the EU by the middle of this year.

The company also intends to fund its ASCEND trial on Esbriet in the US from the proceeds. In Dec 2012, InterMune completed its enrollment process of the phase III ASCEND study to support Esbriet's regulatory submission for the candidate in the US. InterMune expects preliminary results from the 52-week ASCEND trial in the second quarter of 2014. The company expects to build the commercial infrastructure and commence pre-launch preparations for Esbriet in the US in 2013.

The company may use a part of the funds raised for other corporate purposes as well. InterMune also has plans to spend a portion of its net proceeds for capital expenditures, for acquisitions or for other investments.

We remind investors that the company expects total operating expense for 2013 in the range of $245–$285 million, including R&D expense of $100–$120 million and SG&A expense of $145–$165 million.

Our Recommendation

We believe Esbriet has significant commercial potential as it targets idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), which is an orphan indication. Though Esbriet is the only approved medicine for IPF, companies like Novartis (NVS) and Celgene Corporation (CELG) are developing candidates for IPF treatment. We remain concerned about the fact that InterMune is dependent on a single product for growth.

We currently have a Neutral recommendation on InterMune. The stock carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Meanwhile other pharma stocks such as Targacept Inc. (TRGT) and Agenus Inc. (AGEN) carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Today, Zacks is promoting Four daily picks are offered free.

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