September 24, 2007

Several Lessons to be Learned from Sonus

Sonus Pharmaceuticals (SNUS) announced today that its breast cancer drug Tocosol paclitaxel did not meet its primary endpoints in a phase III trial and, therefore, the company will not pursue a new drug application. The announcement sent shares tumbling some 85% in pre-market trading. I got burned in this one as well, but there are several lessons that we (including myself) can take away from this one.

1: Risk
As I have mentioned before, and as should be pretty common understanding to most investors, development-stage biotech companies carry a lot of risk, and their stocks should only be traded by those that are willing to take on risk. Sonus is very speculative, especially considering all of its future was riding on this one clinical trial.
Investors should be willing to hedge this risk, so that they aren't just gambling. To do that, investors can use options (I suggested using options to play Sonus back in August) or split their speculative money between companies. Option players right now are probably a lot better off than longs. October $5 call options would have cost you $0.90 last week, and losing $90 is a considerable less loss than buying 100 shares at $4.35 and having to sell today at $0.70 for a loss of $365.
Personally, I have my speculative money split between several companies, which included Sonus. I will take a good loss on Sonus, but like I said, it was with speculative money and I was willing to take that risk. However, with my other positions, I have been able to hedge some of that risk because (if I've done my homework right) I will make (or already have made) money on those positions.

2. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is
When I wrote about Sonus in August, there were several factors that made this seem too good to be true. 1) There were few shorts, 2) All the analysts were talking good about it, and 3) The message boards were too positive. Development-stage biotechs, especially ones with data coming out that is going to make-or-break the company should have more people on both sides of the fence. Sonus was dominated with positive sentiment. This is a lesson that I'll definitely take out of this experience.

The positive sentiment was very encouraging, and the fact that I had found Sonus to be undervalued based on my fair value estimation make this a tough one to believe. But it just goes to show, that stock trading is not for the weak and a fair value estimation, is just that: an estimation.

Disclosure: I have sold the shares I owned of SNUS :-(


Kim said...

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Great post on sonus.