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AMGEN SHARES FALL 7.7% ANALYST'S DOWNGRADE, SUITS, DELAY CONSPIRE TO CUT VALUE.

Byline: Barbara Correa Staff Writer

THOUSAND OAKS - Shares of Amgen dropped Wednesday after the Thousand Oaks biotechnology company postponed an analyst meeting, reported two lawsuits and got a downgrade from an investment bank that said its shares may be overvalued.

Late Tuesday, Amgen announced it would push back a Nov. 21 meeting with industry analysts until Feb. 25 to sort out marketing and legal issues surrounding some of its products.

Amgen said it will provide 2003 financial guidance to investors as scheduled Dec. 12.

In a statement, Amgen said postponing the analyst meeting will give it time to provide a clearer long-term picture of the company, including its plan to relaunch Enbrel, an arthritis drug that prompted Amgen's purchase of Immunex Corp. last July. Amgen is awaiting regulatory approval for an Enbrel manufacturing facility in Rhode Island that it inherited as part of the Immunex deal.

The company is also awaiting a patent infringement appeal ruling and is reviewing the impact of an Oct. 31 Medicare drug reimbursement change, said Barbara Bronson Gray, a spokeswoman for the company.

Also Tuesday, Amgen announced in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it is being sued by the Israel Bio-Engineering Project for patent infringement related to arthritis drug Enbrel.

Separately in the SEC filing, Amgen said it was named as a defendant in an action filed in California Superior Court that claims it, along with other pharmaceutical manufacturers, overstated wholesale prices for some products, allegedly inflating reimbursement to providers who prescribe the drugs.

Wednesday, UBS Warburg analyst Meirav Chovav cut her rating of Amgen stock from ``buy'' to ``hold,'' citing concerns about its core product portfolio and limited upside potential with the stock near her $51 price target.

Amgen shed 7.7 percent on the Nasdaq Wednesday to close at $46.21.

Uncertainty in the market about whether Amgen delayed its analyst review because of legal actions or because of delays in ramping up production of Enbrel contributed to the losses, said Michelle Bider, an analyst at Roth Capital Partners in Los Angeles. ``It wasn't clear, so people tend to assume the worst, especially in this market.''

Also dragging down Amgen shares, sales of Enbrel are expected to come in at the low end or below Amgen's forecast of $750 million to $800 million for 2002, said Bider.

Still, she cites other drugs as more crucial to Amgen's health than Enbrel. ``We think the stock should be driven by sales of (cancer drug) Neulasta and (anemia drug) Aranesp,'' said Bider. ``Enbrel is a drag on the stock.''
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Nov 7, 2002
Words:427
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