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Morgan Stanley names global stocks to cash in on weight-loss drug boom – CNBC

Feb 6th, 2024

Drug manufacturers such as Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk have been hot favorites among investors in the past year, given the positive reception to their weight-loss medications. "The uptake of GLP-1 (glucagon-like-pepitide-1) class AOMs (anti-obesity medications) has been unexpectedly robust, particularly in the U.S. where the drugs are propelling weight-centric goals to therapeutic guidelines," Morgan Stanley's analysts led by Sean Wu said in a Jan. 28 research note to investors. However, the implication of the drugs has been "less clear" for Asia, according to the investment bank which named several opportunities and some top stocks to play the theme in the region. The "lower rates of obesity and a preference for more natural forms of weight control," in Asia, lead to a limited impact on the consumption of anti-obesity medications in the region, Morgan Stanley's analysts said. The rates of overweight or obese individuals based on the World Health Organization's (WHO) definition ranges from 20% to 50% in Asia, significantly lower than the 70% to 75% in the U.S, the analysts noted. The only country in Asia Pacific that bucks the trend is Australia which has overweight and obesity rates of 62% and 76% in females and males, respectively. According to WHO , individuals with a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 30 are considered 'overweight', while those with a BMI greater than 30 are deemed obese. Under-the-radar stock picks Morgan Stanley reckons the way to play the obesity theme in Asia is through names involved in GLP-1 drug development that "could find upside in burgeoning overseas markets." One such company is WuXi AppTec , a China-based contract development and manufacturing organization. Calling it "top beneficiary as global demand for GLP-1 drugs significantly outpaces capacity," Morgan Stanley has an overweight rating on the stock. Other top stocks in the investment bank's list include drug manufacturers Innovent Biologics from China and Chugai Pharmacuetical from Japan, as well as EBOS , a drug distributor headquartered in New Zealand. Morgan Stanley has an investment horizon of just over six months for WuXi AppTec and Innovent and over 12 months for Chugai and EBOS. "Chugai is a key Asia-based GLP-1 drug developer with direct exposure to overseas markets, while Innovent is a leading developer of GLP-1 drugs that is expected to benefit from the potentially substantial China market," the bank's analysts wrote. Chugai had manufactured Orforglipron a medication prescribed for weight loss and type 2 diabetes which was licensed for distribution by Eli Lilly in 2018. Morgan Stanley's analysts estimate that worldwide sales of Orforglipron could hit $7 billion in 2023. While Chugai has yet to announce a royalty rate, the bank estimates it could get annual royalty income of around or over $1 billion based on a rate of 15%. Elsewhere, it sees opportunities for EBOS following the Australian government's approval for it to distribute obesity drugs. "Australian government's decision to fund GLP-1-based therapies for obesity under the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) could generate a multi-billion-dollar domestic market, with a positive impact on pharmaceutical distributors such as EBOS," Morgan Stanley's analysts wrote, adding that EBOS could receive a margin on the dollar value of revenue distributed. SharesofWuXi AppTec and Innovent are traded on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Both stocks are held in the KraneShares MSCI All China Health Care Index ETF . Meanwhile, Chugai and EBOS are traded on the Japanese and Australian stock exchanges. Chugai has a 2.7% holding in the Goldman Sachs Future Health Care Equity ETF while EBOS has a 4% weightage in the iShares MSCI New Zealand ETF . CNBC's Michael Bloom contributed to this report.

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Morgan Stanley names global stocks to cash in on weight-loss drug boom - CNBC

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