Ligand Trounces Q2 Estimates by Helping Companies Make COVID-19 Drug Remdesivir

Ligand Pharmaceuticals' (NASDAQ: LGND) big slide in March was only short-lived. Its shares have rebounded nicely over the last several months and came into this week up 12% year to date.

The biotech announced its second-quarter results before the market opened on Monday. Here's what you need to know about Ligand's Q2 results. Scientist looking through microscope.

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By the numbers

Ligand reported revenue in the second quarter of $41.4 million, a 66% year-over-year jump. This figure easily topped the average analysts' estimate of $31.4 million. 

The company announced net income in the second quarter of $22.1 million, or $1.32 per share, based on generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). This was a major improvement over Ligand's GAAP net loss of $14.4 million, or $0.74 per share, in the prior-year period.

Ligand posted Q2 adjusted earnings of $16.7 million, or $1.00 per share. In the same quarter of 2019, the company's adjusted earnings totaled $13.9 million, or $0.68 per share. The consensus Wall Street estimate projected adjusted earnings of $0.76 per share.

Behind the numbers

The lion's share of Ligand's revenue in Q2 stemmed from its Captisol business. Captisol is used by drugmakers to improve the bioavailability, dosing, solubility, and stability of active pharmaceutical ingredients. Ligand reported Captisol sales in the second quarter of $24.5 million, nearly three times the sales of $8.5 million in the prior-year period.

This significant increase in Captisol sales primarily resulted from the use of the technology in making Gilead Sciences' (NASDAQ: GILD) COVID-19 drug remdesivir. Gilead won emergency use authorization for remdesivir on May 1, 2020. The big biotech formed a consortium of generic drugmakers to manufacture the drug. Ligand is already supplying Captisol to some of these companies and has either inked deals or is in discussions with the rest of the consortium members.

Ligand recorded royalties in Q2 of $7.2 million, a 9% year-over-year increase. These royalties were mainly for sales of Amgen's multiple myeloma drug Kyprolis and Acrotech's cancer drug Evomela. In addition, Ligand generated service revenue of $4.6 million in Q2, just as it did in the prior-year period. The company's contract revenue in the second quarter totaled $5.2 million, down slightly from $5.3 million in the same period in 2019.

Looking ahead

Ligand now anticipates revenue of $165 million in full-year 2020, up from its previous guidance of $140 million. The company also projects 2020 adjusted earnings per share of $4.10, compared to $3.65 provided in its previous outlook.

CEO John Higgins stated, "In particular, sales of Captisol to partners advancing remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19 are driving upside to the business, and we expect Captisol demand to increase significantly over the next couple of years." He added, "Given our outlook for Captisol, in early June we announced to all of our customers Ligand's plans to deploy up to $60 million over the next year to increase our annual production capacity more than eight-fold."

Remdesivir isn't the only potential catalyst for the biotech stock, though. Ligand plans to begin a pivotal clinical study later this year evaluating Captisol-enabled Iohexol, an iodinated contrast agent for hospital-imaging procedures. With an estimated U.S. market of $1.5 billion in sales for iodine-based contrast agents, Ligand could have another growth driver if all goes well in the clinical trial of Iohexol.

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Keith Speights owns shares of Gilead Sciences. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Gilead Sciences. The Motley Fool recommends Amgen. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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