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But now this could be delayed by a few weeks. Compared to the mRNA competitors BioNTech with the US partner Pfizer and the US group Moderna, the company from Tübingen was already late. To be able to play an important role in the vaccination campaigns, time is ticking.
ABOUT THE LOCATION OF THE COMPANY:
CureVac, with SAP co-founder Dietmar Hopp as the main investor, is considered a pioneer of mRNA technology: Here, a molecule provides the blueprint to form a specific protein, against which the body then develops defense reactions. In the case of the corona vaccination, it is the so-called spike protein with which the virus docks onto the cells. The vaccines already established on the market from BioNTech and the US competitor Moderna also rely on this modern technology.
During the corona crisis, the new mRNA approach was suddenly on everyone’s lips, even if the areas of application were originally seen elsewhere, for example in cancer prevention. During the first wave of corona infections in 2020, CureVac became such a great beacon of hope that the German state contributed 300 million euros to a financing round via the KfW development bank – probably also to prevent third-party access to the know-how. In order to raise more funds, the IPO in New York followed in August.
But while BioNTech / Pfizer and Moderna have been on the market with their corona vaccines for a good six months, CureVac is still in the research loop in June 2021. The pivotal phase III clinical trial with 40,000 participants for the vaccine began in mid-December. For a long time nothing was known about specific data from the research. Only when it comes to safety was it said that there were no concerns.
In the meantime, however, it is clear: As more and more mutants are now displacing the original virus strain, CureVac is now including several of these variants in its extensive research. And that just takes longer. In addition, CureVac is currently apparently causing problems that the pandemic is subsiding. As a result, not enough people in the control groups have contracted Covid-19 so far – but a set number of sick people is necessary here in order to calculate the effectiveness of the agent in the vaccinated.
The delays at CureVac are also a blow to the vaccination campaign in Germany, because, according to press reports, the federal government had apparently firmly committed to the drug in its planning from summer onwards. Now, however, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) should not expect approval “not before August”, as politicians recently announced, citing Health Minister Spahn. On Friday it was even speculated that CureVac could no longer play a role in this year’s German vaccination campaign.
In the EU, the focus of vaccine procurement is now clearly on the competitor BioNTech from Mainz. In order to still be able to create an important role in the vaccination campaigns, CureVacs vaccine would have to offer important plus points elsewhere. CureVac founder and mRNA discoverer Ingmar Hoerr made it clear in numerous interviews that the company – unlike BioNTech – relies on storage at refrigerator temperatures for its vaccine.
CureVac boss Franz-Werner Haas, meanwhile, in an interview with the “Handelsblatt”, dampened expectations of the effectiveness of the future mRNA vaccine because of the mutations. But according to the evaluations so far, the vaccine from BioNTech and Pfizer is no longer as effective against the mutated corona viruses as against the original strain.
From an economic point of view, the vaccine has so far only been an immense cost driver for CureVac before approval promises billions in sales and thus a financial blessing. The pre-tax loss in the first quarter was around 112 million euros – with only ten million euros in sales that the company was able to write at the beginning of the year. In 2020, when the development of the corona vaccine started, CureVac had to complain about a pre-tax loss of almost 130 million euros.
Various production and development partnerships have now been concluded, including one with the pharmaceutical company Bayer. Together with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the company is already working on a second generation of vaccines and a booster vaccination for a booster.
WHAT DOES THE SHARE DO:
The latest reports of vaccine delays have left their mark on CureVac’s chart. In December 2020, the papers had reached a record high of more than $ 150 when BioNTech caused euphoria with the first approvals of its vaccine. But this brand was lost again. The price is now around $ 100, a low since mid-May. At that time, speculation about the release of patents had just flattened out. These had even pushed the shares just below $ 90 a few days earlier.
The course has now lost a third since the record. At the beginning of February and the end of April, the shares only got closer to the previous high of $ 151.80, with interim peaks of $ 133 and $ 130, respectively. The last time they did this was a few days ago with an interim high at $ 125.66, from which they have now lost more than a fifth of their value in a few days.
This means that the CureVac share has lagged behind its competitor BioNTech in the past few months. When its course was spurred on by the first approval at the end of 2020, it initially rubbed off for a few months. Out of their imagination, investors gave CureVac advance praise for later approval. Since the end of March, the family bond has been over: BioNTech has become the most reliable vaccine supplier in Europe, and the share has more than doubled since then. CureVac, on the other hand, has made up little ground since then.
Anyone who got a chance at the IPO does not have to worry about price losses. In August 2020, CureVac’s deposit receipts (ADR) were issued at $ 16 and then shot up to $ 85 on the Nasdaq exchange in the first few days of trading. They then leveled off at around $ 50 until they started picking up in November, when BioNTech had created a mood of optimism with positive efficacy data in the pandemic.
The Mainz competitor’s share was issued at $ 15 in 2019, and now stands at almost $ 240 at almost 16 times as much. CureVac, on the other hand, has only sixfold its value since going public. Curavec is currently valued at almost $ 19 billion on the capital market. The biggest beneficiary of the price increase is Hopp. According to Bloomberg, the SAP founder holds almost 47 percent of the shares.
The federal government follows with 16 percent – the package is currently worth around 2.5 billion euros. So the commitment has paid off for the state, at least financially. The third largest shareholder is the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, which holds eight percent of the shares.
However, the competitor BioNTech is also lagging behind in the market capitalization rating. The Mainz-based company is worth almost $ 58 billion to the stock exchange. The largest BioNTech shareholders are Andreas and Thomas Strüngmann. According to Bloomberg data, the two brothers, who sold the generics manufacturer Hexal to the Swiss Novartis group in 2005, hold almost half of the BioNTech shares through the subsidiary AT Impf GmbH. BioNTech boss Ugur Sahin, who also founded the company in 2008, owns around 17 percent of the shares.
WHAT THE ANALYSTS SAY:
There are still only a few analysts who keep an eye on CureVac. Umer Raffat from the US analysis company Evercore ISI has been looking optimistically for a long time to the share he classified as “Outperform”. After reports of a delay until August, he emphasized that the company was still expecting new interim results for June, although the framework only provided for 111 cases of infection. It would have to be 185 in the final, and for this the expert drew a nine-month time frame for the entire study up to September.
Above all, Berenberg Bank is consistently on the ball with a buy recommendation and a price target of 123 US dollars. In his most recent study, Zhiqiang Shu recently ruled that last year had been a year of transition for CureVac given the high development costs. He expects positive news, especially since the population’s initial skepticism about mRNA has given way to the opposite. The EU Commission therefore wants to focus on products with this technology for the next vaccine orders.
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