2023 was another eventful year for the Nordic healthcare stocks with plenty of opportunities amid an index loss of 20%. The best performers were, not surprisingly, driven by positive study results, new partnerships, and new owners. While the Nordic healthcare stocks delivered a negative return, the Danish biotech stocks had a more positive year with positive returns in a challenging market environment. The best performer more than tripled their shareholder’s money.
In 2023, the Kapital Partner Nordic Healthcare Index (KPHC) fell from 81.50 to 65.28 corresponding to a 20% fall. The index underperformed relative to the large-cap indices of C25 and S30 as well as KPNGX. It took a hit in September following an almost 90% decline of the SynAct Pharma share price. The poor performance is a result of many factors, but one of them is the rising interest rates. Notably, the index made a comeback since the end of October following news of the interest rates stabilizing with a 14% increase since the bottom. Furthermore, risk aversion has also caused healthcare stocks to plummet as investors have focused on less risky stocks. With increased optimism and risk appetite, the interest in healthcare and biotech stocks could increase significantly in 2023.
Overview of development for Kapital Partner Healthcare Index in 2023
Danish Small Caps on top
In a year with an overall 20% drawdown in the Nordic healthcare stocks, opportunities have been many and the top 10 stocks delivered an average return of 185% with the top performer delivering a 350% return. Of the ten best performing stocks eight were small caps, including all the top five stocks and despite Swedish companies outnumbering the other countries, a Danish company was the investors’ darling in 2023.
The top performers were primarily driven by positive study results such as Cessatech with CT001, new partnerships such as Sprint Bioscience that made a licensing deal with a potential value of up to 316 MUSD plus single digit royalties on sales, and new owners such as Swiss-based Altium that acquired a major stake in Phase Holographic Imaging.
The 10 best-performing Nordic healthcare stocks in 2023
Cessatech A/S (350%) (Nordnet) specializes in the research and development of analgesic nasal sprays, which are further used to treat acute pain conditions in children. In addition to the main business, associated supplementary services and related products are also offered.
Sprint Bioscience AB (214%) (Nordnet) develops pharmaceutical candidates that alone or in combination with other pharmaceuticals can fight cancer. The company has a project portfolio focused on attacking parts of cancer cell processes. The company’s business model is based on developing projects parallel in the preclinical phase to subsequently enter into licensing agreements with the global pharmaceutical industry.
Phase Holographic Imaging (214%) (Nordnet) develops instrumentation and software for time-lapse cytometry. The products are used for quantitative long-term analysis of the dynamics of live cells, particularly significant in the research of cancer, as well as in the treatment of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Ziccum AB (209%) (Nordnet) develops new preparations of biological medicines. With the company’s patented LaminarPace technology, dry preparation forms are developed for products that are currently available in liquid form. Most of the business is found around the Nordic region.
Braincool AB (185%) (Nordnet) develops products used for medical cooling of the human brain. The technology acts as cooling pads that are applied to different part of the patient’s body, where the system controls the body temperature and other movements. The products are used in the treatment of various severe conditions such as stroke, cardiac arrest, concussion, and migraine.
Promimic AB (182%) (Nordnet) conducts research and development in surface modifications. Examples of specialist areas include surface modifications for osseointegration for orthopedic and dental implants. The main operations are in Europe and America, where research and development are conducted in-house but also through partners.
Lifecare AS (148%) (Nordnet) specializes in the research and development of diabetes. The products are patented and used as glucose sensors. The microsensors are injected under the skin of the patient’s wrist, and further function as a real-time update of the patient’s glucose level. In addition, the technology contributes with an alarm sensor and access to historical data on the patient’s glucose level.
ADDvise Group AB (134%) (Nordnet) offers complete solutions for healthcare and research units, which include laboratory equipment, protective ventilation, and various consumables. The business is managed based on two business segments: Lab and Healthcare. The customers are found mainly in the Nordic market, but also in the rest of the international market and include both customers in the private and public sectors.
Kancera AB (114%) (Nordnet) develops pharmaceuticals that counteract injuries in acute and chronic inflammation. The products are developed primarily to counteract hyper-inflammation in various disease states and thereby protect vital organs, for example in connection with heart attacks and severe virus infections. Kancera is planning two Phase II clinical trials, in covid-19 and in cardiac patients.
Cereno Sciencific (103%) (Nordnet) is focused on developing pharmaceuticals for the treatment of various cardiovascular diseases. The products are used to treat potential blood clots that may lead to stroke, myocardial infarction, pulmonary embolism, as well as venous thrombosis.
Danish biotech stocks in positive terrain in 2023
On average, the Danish biotech stocks delivered a return of 9% in 2023 with 50% of the stocks giving a positive performance and 50% with a negative performance. A significant outperformance relative to the rest of the healthcare stocks in the Nordics. It is, however, important to note that the overall return would be negative without the Cessatech’s stellar share price performance.
Without a general upswing in investors’ interest in the sector, study results, partnerships, and financing activities were the major drivers for the share price development of biotech stocks in 2023. Cessatech became the clear winner of the Danish biotech stocks with a return of 350%. This came following positive study data from CT001 as well as a partnership with Ventis Pharma in the U.S. Zealand Pharma also performed very well. The stock had a steady performance throughout the year without major events. The rise in share price was probably a result of the increased interest in diabetes and obesity medicine caused by Novo Nordisk. Curasight presented positive study results for both uTRACE (diagnostics) and uTREAT (radionucide therapy) as well as a 70+ MUSD partnership with Curium, making it the third best Danish biotech investment last year. Curasight is slowly but surely progressing forward with its Theranostics platform that combines uTRACE (diagnostics) and uTREAT (radionucide therapy) to detect and treat cancer tumors and, thus, is a stock to follow closely this year.
Read more: The investment case of Curasight
Lack of financing or a good financial position was a significant factor in 2023 for negative share price performance – as well as negative study results. SynAct Pharma announced that their phase II study did not meet its primary endpoint of a 20% improvement vs. placebo, which caused the stock to plummet and the stock to end the year with the highest fall in yearly return. In March, Expres2ion Biotech Holding announced a rights issue at a more than 50% discount leading the stock to also plummet. However, in November the company announced a 90 MSEK of funding from the EU Horizon program for the Nipah virus vaccine development, which fueled the stock price from 1 SEK to 4.6 SEK, so that the stock only ended as the second worst investment in 2023.
Danish biotech stocks’ performance 2023
Sources: Nordnet and Refinitiv Eikon