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Karuna Therapeutics, little-known firm is yr's best US IPO with 420% surge

Early Karuna holders saw more than 420 per cent returns since the June IPO at $16 a share

Cristin Flanagan | Bloomberg 

IPO

Karuna Therapeutics Inc. may not be the year’s best-known initial public offering, taking a back seat to names like Beyond Meat Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. But for those on the hunt for generous returns, early bets on the mid-cap drugmaker paid off handsomely.

Thanks to some positive study results in November, Karuna is 2019’s best-performing US Early Karuna holders saw more than 420 per cent returns since the June at $16 a share, and next week a handful of the biotech’s top holders will get a chance to reap the rewards when they get the first chance to sell.

Puretech Health Plc, a co-inventor of Karuna’s lead program, is the largest holder with a 28 per cent stake, according to Bloomberg data, and will be able to sell shares after the 180-day restriction expires on Dec. 25. The next largest holder, Fidelity Management & Research Co. with a 15 per cent stake, will also get that chance. The investment firm added to its stake in September ahead of the medical trial readout.

“Karuna is positioned to be a major new player in a field that (while very lucrative) has been lacking innovation for decades,” Daphne Zohar, Puretech’s chief executive, said via email, referring to the area of brain diseases, which has been riddled with failures. She declined to comment on future plans for the stake in Karuna.

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The rally on results from Karuna’s lead therapy, KarXT for psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia, led the drug developer to break tradition and do a secondary offering before the lockup expired. Goldman Sachs Inc. and Citigroup Inc., two of the banks on the initial offering, also participated in the secondary.

That offering priced at $96 a share. The stock has come down from a November peak when shares rose as high as $152 on an intraday basis to trade in the $85 range. But Wall Street analysts -- including those on the recent offerings -- remain undaunted with all six covering analysts having buy ratings. The average price target forecasts another rise of about 40 per cent for the stock.

Under the secondary, insiders and top holders with ties to Karuna’s board, like Arch Capital and Sofinnova Ventures, are now subject to new selling restrictions, which won’t expire until late February.

First Published: Sat, December 21 2019. 11:31 IST
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