No Memorial Today

I had planned to attend a Yizkhor (memorial) service today for four friends who passed in the last year, two of whom had lung cancer, Sylvia and Lydia. But my reform synagogue held the service last night and I failed to attend because in prior years I had no reason to.

So my plan to not file today was overcome by the Reform movement's decision to cut down on the number of non-working days at the start of the Jewish year. I did light a candle last night so that will have to do.

Today's blog is mostly good news, sold stocks crashing and bought stocks climbing, with good news about lung cancer to boot. We have news from the USA, Japan, Israel, Denmark, and Canada, and that's only about Pharmaceuticals. We have bad news from India about another company we used to own, about which there is a tale.


*Eisai of Japan (ESALY) is up today after its partner Biogen, BIIB, reported that more detailed FDA-backed study of their Alzheimer's drug aducanumab, a monoclonal antibody, produced data showing statistically significant reduction in symptoms at 78 weeks, at 23%. This means that the partners will file a new FDA NDA for the drug which clears amyloid beta from the brain. The earlier data was negative and the pair had discontinued new enrollments, but now the results are more favorable. ESALY also gains because the FDA demanded new data on another drug it developed, eribulin for advanced breast cancer. It opened up 41% but then fell back and now is only up 39%.

*Teva's roller coaster rise yesterday to $8.45 coincided with the Jewish holiday and the reaction in Tel Aviv was a day late. It opened down a bit and then fell further, but is still nicely over $8 after it reported that it had settled with two Ohio counties over the opioid epidemic, one covering Cleveland where I looked after my daughter after she had painful ankle surgery and was very carefully monitored for her use of pain-killers.

Teva will pay $20 mn in cash and donate $25 mn worth of Suboxone (generic naxalone) to the two counties over the next three years. TEVA also said it has reached agreement with attorneys-general of four US states to donate $23 bn in naxalone and pay a total of $250 mn over the next 10 years. However there are counties and cities which also have claims that were not addressed. I recently averaged up sharply on TEVA stock which I cannot sell because my basis goes back nearly 30 years. Moody's today said the framework deal is negative for TEVA bonds (we own two kinds, convertible, and straight) but the cash outlays are modest.

*Novo Nordisk of Denmark (NVO) rose 2% after it won FDA approval for Fiasp insulin to be used in infusion pumps for adult diabetics with both forms of the disease.

*Zymeworks of Canada rose 1.75% on no news I can find. ZYME was tipped by our reporter Martin Ferera and later by brokerage Raymond James.

*Bristol-Myers Squibb is up 6% on positive results of its trial of Opdivo and Yervoy along with only 2 rounds of chemotherapy in treating non-small cell lung cancer, which killed two of my friends in the last year. It beat the results of 4 rounds of chemo without drugs. I inherited the shares from my late mother in 2000. She had bought BMY because her favorite sister died of cancer and she thought their focus might lead to a breakthrough.

Tech & Tel

*About 5 years ago, a free-lance journalist wanting to write for this newsletter submitted a free article to show what he could do, about Infosys Ltd, an Indian tech company. At that time our former India reporter had joined a competing company and I had not yet stumbled upon Abhimanyu Sisodia, so I ran the article as a test. The I asked the writer for a paid follow-up some months later and he refused. From then on I worried about the INFY stock because the freelance seemed to have been pumping INFY shares not only on my blog, but more widely. We finally exited over concern about the Trump Administration making it harder for Indians to come to the US to help INFY train Americans in tech.

It now appears that the writer was not the only one on the take from Infosys, after 'ethical employees' working for the firm accused the CEO and CFO of misreporting sales and profits in recent quarters by ignoring visa costs, precisely the factor that led to our sale of the shares. But they also charged that INFY failed to book a $59 mn reversal in a contract.

Both men were not in the exec suite when we sold. Indian companies, alas, are prone to ethical lapses, as we found out with our brief foray into Bollywood with Eros.

*Dutch-listed Prosus, spun out last month by Naspers of South Africa, today bid to buy Just Eat in London, countering a bid by Dutch Takeway, for £4.9 bn. Both internet food delivery firms compete with Ireland's Greencore, GNCGY. We won both PROSY and NPSNY. Global food delivery is the hot new thing but my own preference is for ready meals at the supermarket because I think food delivered to the steps is easily stolen, and gets cold. Just Eat gained 25%+.

*Israeli Ituran rose 0.9% hitting $25.66. ITRN makes perimeter protection systems.

*MultiChoice Group of South Africa which operates TV all over the continent, a spinoff from Naspers, gained 2.6%. MCHOY reported no news.

*John Malone's Liberty Global telco (LBTYA, and LBTYK, sold) was hit by the decision of Sunrise Communications to halt a deal to buy Liberty's UPC in Switzeralnd because key shareholders of Sunrise opposed this.

*Tomra Systems of Norway rose nearly 14% on no news. TMRAF machines do reverse vending for empties and also sort drugs, plastics, and potatoes.


*Brazilian Cosan is up 1.8%, another year's high, and gained nearly 102% in the past 12 mos. CZZ refines sugar and does logistics, but also makes ethanol and sells it around Latin America. Its stock rose because of a big buyback of its shares at up to $15.50 last month. Just under a third of its shares are owned by institutional investors in Brazil, Europe, Britain, and the USA.

*Schlumberger Ltd (SLB) rose sharply today after more analysts signalled support for the Dutch Antillean oil services firm which beat consensus forecasts for Q3 earnings thanks to international growth for its work defining reservoirs and running wirelines for drilling and production, despite a drop in North America. While Halliburton did not beat forecasts, it did meet them, which boosted confidence in the sector.

*Canadian Computer Modelling will report on its Q2 Nov. 13, and may also gain a boost. It also defines reservoirs for drilling and production. CMDXF (CMG up north) uses a June 30 fiscal year.

*Ecopetrol of Colombia won US approval for a jv with Occidental, OXY, in the Permian Basin. We sold EC last summer.


*Soquimich of Chile is down today by about 3% after its 24% shareholder Tianqi Lithium of China reported that it lost RMB 54 mn in Q3, about $7.6 mn. LI prices have fallen by about a third YTD. However SQM is not only a lithium miner, as it also produces fertilizer.

*Palladium hit a new record last week at $1750 per oz, and this should boost Johnson Mathhey which refines and sells the metal more than the $78.5 it hit today, up 1.2%. Platinum, another JMPLY product, is also a substitute for palladium.

*Copper miner Antofagasta dropped 1.5% today not because the world is moving toward a recession, but because of riots in its Chilean homeland, but not in the Atacama desert. ANFGF.


*Banco Santander is selling its Puerto Rico retail bank to First BanCorp's Puerto Rico branch for $1.1 bn. The share is up sharply over the last two days on the news. It also plans to lure in online US retail deposits by offering better returns to cut down on its interbank costs by offering a higher rate than its US rivals. Currently it has a loanbook of $145 bn mostly for credit cards and car loans but only $64 bn in deposits, because it operates only in 9 states, including New York. SAN also raised its dividend last month but took a euros 1.5 bn writeoff on its UK business. It bought Abbey National of Britain 15 years ago and last year this accounted for 13% of SAN profits. Chair Ana Patricia Botin was in charge of the takeover. But Brexit will hurt the Continent's largest British bank this year. SAN rose .5%. Its prefs fell a bit.

*UK mini-banks including Clydesdale & Yorkshire Banking Group (CBBYF), are up on hopes that Britain will not crash out of the European Union Oct. 31. CYBG is up 3.1% in UK trading and up 9.6% in Australia. However the ADR is not yet pricing in my account.


*Fibra Uno, the Mexican REIT, will hold an investor day Nov 14. I will go if my new brokerage TD Ameritrade credits my account with the shares ACAT'ed over by JP Morgan. I may have to reverse the ACAT if this goes on.

*Korea Fund gained 1.3% today on no news. It will hold a public call with Portfolio Manager Chris Leung CFA tomorrow at 10:30 am. The fund is in Germany's Allianz CE (AZSEY) group but my new brokerage account will not let me register.

Disclosure: None.

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