Ziopharm Oncology (NASDAQ: ZIOP)
It has been a pretty wild ride for Ziopharm Oncology in the past 52 weeks. Share prices dipped as low as $2.31 in October and reached all the way up to $14.40 in March. Since that high in March, the stock has been zigzagging down. Most recently, it has been stuck in the $8.63-$11.33 range since late April. This week it appears to be breaking out of its slump. Monday alone saw share prices rise by a whole dollar from near $9.50 to over $10.50. And Tuesday saw shares finally break the $11.33 ceiling, touching as high as $11.54 before settling right around $11 to end the day. If it starts flirting with the $13 mark in the coming days or weeks, the ride could get very interesting.
The biggest force propelling Ziopharm Oncology this year has been their partnership agreement with MD Anderson Cancer Center and Intrexon Corporation. Announced in January, the exclusive sublicensing agreement combines some of the best technologies from all three parties into one of the most powerful, precise, and minimally harmful approaches to cancer immunotherapy. The second biggest force behind Ziopharm this year might just be rumor. There are those in the know that believe the company is gearing up to be acquired by a larger player in the next year or two. Some even think Ziopharm could be valued as high as $10 billion by a potential buyer, quite a proclamation for a company whose current valuation sits at $1.41 billion.
Analysts on ZIOP
Sentiment surrounding Ziopharm Oncology is mixed at the moment. Analysts are slightly optimistic about the stock with the average rating being “HOLD.” In total, analysts’ opinions of the stock yield two buy ratings, four hold ratings, and one sell rating. The average one year price target is $15.33, representing just over a 39% increase from where the stock closed on Tuesday. Hedge funds views of Ziopharm also appear to have remained somewhat positive. In the last fiscal quarter of 2014, institutional ownership of ZIOP shares was above 35%, with over 288,500 shares being added to institutional ownership positions. In that quarter, 20 funds closed their stakes while 12 funds started new positions. And 23 funds reduced their holdings while 29 funds increased their holdings.
Ziopharm Insider Sales
On the other side, news of company insiders selling fairly large chunks of shares has also been of interest to investors recently. Francois Lebel, the Executive Vice President of Research and Development, sold 50,000 shares at an average price of $10.10 on June 11th. Murray Brennan, another director at Ziopharm Oncology, sold $40,000 shares at an average price of $9.70 on June 4th. Perhaps two large sales like this in one week is not a trend, but it is probably worth watching for other large insider sells in the near future to see if something is afoot. Also adding to the current uncertainty surrounding Ziopharm, May saw a sharp rise in short interest. From May 15th to May 29th, short interest in the stock rose 8.2%.
About the Company
Ziopharm Oncology is a biopharmaceutical company focused on cancer immunotherapy treatments. With partners at MD Anderson Cancer Center and Intrexon Corporation, they are innovating in the fields of genetically engineered T cells, gene transcription, and gene expression to better fight cancer. The company is based in Boston, Massachusetts.