E Ben Franklin And Pope Francis

*The rumor mill having calmed down, shares of GlaxoSmithKline fell back nearly 4% in British trading today. It may start up again. GSK is considered a takeover target. Today FiercePharma interviewed Axel Hoos who head the GSK immuno-oncology research team who told the newsletter than it has 185 cancer drugs in development after its latest review, in key areas immuno oncology and epigenetics, aiming for a blockbuster way to fight cancer. Note that Novartis gets first refusal rights to new drugs GSK chooses not to develop in house, after which it can peddle them to another drug firm.

*Novartis meanwhile aims to boost its margins to over 30% of sales from 26% before it traded assets with GSK and get ride of its animal health and OTC drug businesses. It is now combining sales forces in oncology drugs in 22 countries and also at its house generics operation, Sandoz. It told newsletter FiercePharma that its Diovan is losing markets to generics and warned that new blockbusters may take time to grow: Cosentyx for psoriasis; Entresto against heart failure, and its first biosimilar Zarxio, a clone of Amgen's Neupogen to fight infections in patients with low white cell count because of chemotherapy (where Teva is also present.) The Israeli firm is also likely to suffer from Sandoz's first-to-file FDA designation as the generic maker of Copaxone.

*Finally a new item involving only one single drug firm. Galapagos of Belgium has completed recruitment of inflammatory bowel disease patients for its phase 2 trial of GLPG 1205, an inhibitor of over-expressed G-protein-coupled receptor 84, an antibody. The novel treatment is in proof of concept trials for ulcerative colitis after showing good result in phase 1. Recruitment began in Jan. and 60 patients were signed up in Belgium (HQ for GLPG), Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Russia. The disease starts at age 25-35, goes on through their lives, and is currently treated with anti-inflammatory steroids and immunosuppressive  agents. About a quarter of patients have to have part of their bowels removed because the inflammation persists. About 200-250 cases arise in every cohort of 100,000 people, among whom is my second-cousin Stephen R.

Other Sectors

*Nokia wants to sell its HERE location sub, which is HQ'd in Germany, to German upmarket car-makers BMWDaimler, and Audi, for about $4 bn. To get to that price, the auto firms want to bring on Baidu search engine (which earlier reportedly offered $3 bn), and a private equity firm, General Atlantic. The wrath of Microsoft by flogging HERE to a software firm is being avoided.

​Wednesday MSFT essentially lopped off the future career of Stephen Elop, the former CEO of NOK who successfully sold NOK's cellphone arm to Microsoft, which he then rejoined to help it integrate cellphones, not with success.

*Delek Group and its operator partner, Noble Energy, which own 85% of the future Leviathan gas bonanza offshore Israel, will not have until 2020 to start production and pay royalties to the Jewish State. The delay resulted from antitrust initiatives by the government which is worried about monopolistic pricing.

*I lowered my stake in Ecopetrol after oil prices rose on commodity markets. However EC failed to live up to expectations mainly because a new FARC attack took down the 150-mi Cano-Limon pipeline yet again, creating a spill hitting two rivers. We bought EC as a play on peace talks with the lefty rebels who have been at it for 60 years.

*Barclays analysts rate Renishaw an overweight with a target price of GBX 2825. It is currently 2355, one reason I am demanding that it port over to my new Interactive Brokers acct. RSW has a totally inactive ADR which is all I can access for now with E-trade.

*Gemalto paid its dividend to US reader TG at 21.7c/sh with a 15% Dutch withholding tax. GTOMY is an ADR and in theory it pays gross. You can offset the tax you paid against other dividends you receive. I fear that the 15% was fees charged by the Depositary Trust Co.

*One of my shrewder moves was selling China Minsheng Bank, which we bought because it was a private sector institution in a world of state-backed banks, also the reason we sold it in 2013 at a loss. With Shanghai shares soaring to 50% rise YTD, Mincheng is the exception, off 7%.

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Disclosure: None. 

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