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“Wobbly” Markets Tread Water Ahead Of FOMC As Asian Covid Cases Surge

"Wobbly" Markets Tread Water Ahead Of FOMC As Asian Covid Cases Surge



"Wobbly" Markets Tread Water Ahead Of FOMC As Asian Covid Cases Surge Tyler Durden Wed, 07/29/2020 - 07:55

US equity futures and European shares fluctuated on Wednesday, treading water and generally unchanged ahead of the latest FOMC meeting at 2pm today, while a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Asia (especially China, Japan and Hong Kong) kept investors cautious. The dollar slipped in the run-up to Wednesday’s decision from the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting.

Wall Street closed lower on Tuesday and the negative sentiment continued through the Asian session, with Japan’s Nikkei falling on a rising yen and a weak start to the corporate earnings season. The MSCI world equity index was flat in early trading while mixed corporate earnings sent MSCI’s main European Index down by a quarter of a point.

Deaths from coronavirus in the United States registered their biggest one-day increase since May on Tuesday, with this month’s spike in infections having forced some states to make a U-turn on the reopening of their economies. Asia and Europe have also been hit by new surges in COVID-19 infections, with several countries imposing new restrictions and Britain imposing 14-day quarantines on travellers from Spain. Global airlines cut their coronavirus recovery forecasts on Tuesday, saying it would take until 2024 - a year longer than previously expected - for passenger traffic to return to pre-crisis levels.

“It should be clear to investors that the virus itself is not going away,” said David Riley, chief investment strategist at BlueBay Asset Management. "It’s something that’s going to be there having an impact on behaviour, having an impact on economic activity through the remainder of this year and into much of next year."

U.S. futures and European equities swung from losses to modest gains as major earnings streamed in. AMD jumped about 10% in the premarket after increasing its guidance and Starbucks advanced on a sales rebound. Seagate Technology tumbled after an earnings miss.

Europe's STOXX 600 was up 0.1%, Germany's DAX was down 0.1% and France's CAC 40 gained 0.7% on the back of a flurry of better than feared results, including from heavyweight luxury group Kering.  Spanish bank Santander reported a record second-quarter loss while Germany’s Deutsche Bank gave a slightly improved outlook. Barclays fell on bad loan provisions.

Asian stocks fell, led by energy and industrials, after rising in the last session. Markets in the region were mixed, with Japan's Topix Index and India's S&P BSE Sensex Index falling, and Shanghai Composite and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rising. The Topix declined 1.3%, with Melco Holdings and SB Technology Corp falling the most. The Shanghai Composite Index countered the broader Asian weakness, rising 2.1%, with Xi'an Bright Laser Technologies and Anji Micro posting the biggest advances.

In Asian economic news, the Hong Kong recession turned into a depression, with the preliminary reading of Q2 Hong Kong GDP growth coming in at an all time low -9.0% yoy, while in quarter-over-quarter non-annualized terms, real GDP contracted by 0.1% in Q2, vs. a 5.5% decline in Q1 2020. Private consumption, fixed investment and services trade fell further on a year-over-year basis while goods trade growth turned less negative in Q2 compared with Q1, helped by the recovery of the mainland China economy. Looking ahead, external demand might recover in Q3 but the recent surge of local coronavirus cases and the related tightening of social distancing requirements could weigh on domestic activity.

“Global stock markets appear to be starting to get a little wobbly as the latest earnings numbers start to paint a picture of a global economy that could start to face a challenging time in the weeks and months ahead,” wrote Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK. "The resurgence of coronavirus cases starting to get reported across the world is prompting the realisation that hopes of a V-shaped recovery are starting to look like pie in the sky."

Investors will be keeping a close eye on the U.S. Federal Reserve which concludes its two-day meeting. The Fed is expected to sound reassuringly accommodative at its policy review later in the day and perhaps open the door to a higher tolerance for inflation - something dollar bears think could squash real yields and sink the currency even further.  With data from unemployment claims to credit-card spending and air travel plateauing in July, Fed Chairman Powell is expected to reinforce his message that it will do whatever it can to support the recovery, while repeating a call for fiscal aid from Congress.

Investors are also focused on U.S. Congress and White House as they clash over new measures to replace enhanced coronavirus unemployment benefits that are due to expire on Friday. BlueBay’s Riley said the market consensus was that a $1 trillion support package will be agreed. “I think that’s a kind of bare minimum and that won’t be the last that will be needed,” he said.

"The Fed may not announce anything new but there is an assumption that monetary and fiscal policy will be there to bridge the gap,” said Chris Chapman, a portfolio manager at Manulife Investment. “Plus, there is a lot of optimism about potential vaccines, given how many are in the works. The combination of those factors gives people reason to look at risk."

After today's Fed announcement, investors will keep an eye on earnings this week from Amazon.Com, Apple and Alphabet for clues on whether the resurgence of Covid-19 is affecting tech companies and a recovery in the global economy. A drop in U.S. consumer confidence added to evidence that the pace of the rebound is cooling as the virus interrupts reopenings in several states.

In rates, Treasuries drifted lower into early U.S. session as S&P 500 E-minis pare losses, weighing on long end of the curve. Broadly calm price action was evident in Asia, early Europe on low volumes ahead of Fed decision where no policy move is expected but some strategists have suggested an extension in duration of bond purchases is a possibility in the near-term. U.S yields were cheaper by 1bp-2bp at long with 2s10s, 5s30s steeper by ~1bp; 10-year yields ~0.59%, higher by 1.2bp vs Tuesday’s close. Asia session UST futures volumes dropped back to 60% of 20-day average levels as looming FOMC decision curbed risk-taking. High-grade euro zone bond yields dropped to their lowest in more than two months. The German 10-year yield was at -0.505%, having hit as low as -0.521%.

In FX, a gauge of the dollar fell to the lowest level since mid-2018 amid gloomy sentiment on virus recovery and a drop in U.S. consumer confidence, heading toward its worst monthly performance against peers in almost one decade. The euro resumed its advance, rising 0.5% toward the $1.18 mark while the pound advanced for a ninth day to the strongest level since March. The Norwegian krone leads gains among G-10 currencies as crude prices rally; the Aussie dollar outperforms its Kiwi peer after Australian CPI data beat estimates.

In commodities, gold hovered just below its record $2,000 an ounce and Bitcoin was steady just above $11,000 as the two assets took a breather after eight-day rallies. Gold was down 0.2% at $1,957.32 an ounce. Oil prices climbed after a surprise drop in U.S. crude inventories was enough to offset concerns about U.S. fuel demand, though concerns about the record increases in COVID-19 infections kept gains in check.

Lastly to the day ahead, where the big event is the Federal Reserve meeting in the US and Chair Powell’s press conference. On the data front we will get weekly MBA mortgage applications, June advance goods trade balance, pending home sales and preliminary June wholesale inventories. Also it is a large earnings day with Sanofi, Rio into, GlaxoSmithKline, Qualcomm, PayPal, Boeing, Santander, General Electric, General Motors, Barclays and Nomura all reporting.

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures up 0.2% to 3,220.50
  • STOXX Europe 600 up 0.2% to 368.31
  • MXAP down 0.3% to 167.20
  • MXAPJ up 0.2% to 553.03
  • Nikkei down 1.2% to 22,397.11
  • Topix down 1.3% to 1,549.04
  • Hang Seng Index up 0.5% to 24,883.14
  • Shanghai Composite up 2.1% to 3,294.55
  • Sensex down 0.6% to 38,281.38
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 0.2% to 6,006.39
  • Kospi up 0.3% to 2,263.16
  • Brent futures up 1.2% to $43.72/bbl
  • Gold spot little changed at $1,959.01
  • U.S. Dollar Index down 0.2% to 93.52
  • German 10Y yield fell 0.3 bps to -0.511%
  • Euro up 0.3% to $1.1749
  • Italian 10Y yield rose 2.0 bps to 0.882%
  • Spanish 10Y yield fell 0.5 bps to 0.351%

Top Overnight News

  • The ECB will look at inflation in deciding when to unwind its pandemic stimulus program, said policy maker Yannis Stournaras, suggesting the plan may continue longer than anticipated
  • The U.K. is signing a deal with GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Sanofi to secure as many as 60 million doses of their experimental shot for a coronavirus vaccine
  • Traders are betting central bankers will pin down global borrowing costs to historic lows for years to come
  • The damage to European jobs from virus lockdowns may only be temporarily held at bay by furlough programs, ECB researchers say
  • Credit Suisse Group AG is set to announce a sweeping overhaul of its business, merging its investment bank and capital-markets unit

Asian equity markets traded somewhat indecisively following a lacklustre handover from Wall St where participants pondered over a slew of mixed earnings and as the looming FOMC conclusion and approaching fiscal cliff added to the cautious tone. ASX 200 (-0.2%) and Nikkei 225 (-1.2%) were subdued with Australia contained by underperformance in the commodity-related sectors and tech, as well as the ongoing second wave fears which has prompted Queensland state to shut all borders to the greater Sydney area in New South Wales, while Tokyo stocks were hampered by detrimental currency flows and with focus also centred on earnings updates. This includes Nissan which shares slumped around 10% after it flagged a record loss for the year and Canon shares suffered double-digit declines following an 80%  drop in H1 net, while McDonald's Holdings Japan were also heavily pressured on news McDonald's Corp plans to substantially reduce its stake in the Co. to around 35% from 49.99%. Hang Seng (+0.5%) and Shanghai Comp. (+2.1%) swung between gains and losses with early opening weakness eventually pared after the PBoC’s marginal liquidity effort and with headlines also dominated by earnings updates. Finally, 10yr JGBs gained as they took their cue from the bull flattening in US and subdued risk appetite in Tokyo, while the presence of the BoJ added to the support with the central bank in the market for JPY 800bln heavily focused on 1yr-5yr maturities.

Top Asian News

  • Three Gorges Said to Mull $4 Billion Stake Sale in Overseas Unit
  • Hong Kong’s Recession Extends With 9% Drop in Second Quarter
  • Thai Gold Plan May Curb Baht Without Incurring U.S. Anger
  • Nomura Joins Wall Street Giants in Profiting From Trading Boom

European equities (Eurostoxx 50 U/C) have traded with little in the way of firm direction thus far in what has been a morning largely dominated by individual earnings reports rather than broader macro themes. Sector-wise retail names outperform peers with Kering (+4.2%) shares firmer post-earnings despite revenues plunging by around 30% and cautioning that losses in H1 revenue will likely not be offset in H2. Additionally, UK retailer Next (+6.0%) are the top performer in the Stoxx 600 post-earnings with the Co. forecasting an improvement to its baseline scenario seen in April and expectations of making a profit even in the worst-case scenario. Elsewhere, the European banking sector has been in focus today with Deutsche Bank (-2.0%) opening with gains of around 3% before staging a pullback throughout the session following pre-market earnings in which the Co. exceeded revenue expectations for Q2 and raised its revenue outlook. To the downside in the sector, Barclays (-4.3%) are lower on the session post-earnings with the Co.’s provisions coming in above expectations amid fears of a pickup in bad loans amid the fallout from COVID. Elsewhere, BASF (-4.3%) are a notable laggard in Europe after Q2 sales were negatively impacted by a slightly lower price level and were unable to provide FY guidance. UK homebuilders are also suffering this morning following earnings from Taylor Wimpey (-8.9%) after posting a GBP 39.8mln loss and forecasting a 40% decline in home completions in 2020. Looking ahead, asides from the FOMC and wrangling in Washington over the stimulus bill, today’s docket sees another busy one for earnings with Anthem, Spotify, General Electric, Boston Scientific, Boeing, General Motors due to report in the pre-market with Qualcomm and Paypal due after-hours.

Top European News

  • U.K. Builds Up Covid Vaccine Supply With Glaxo, Sanofi Deal
  • BC Partners Seals Buyout of $3.4 Billion Italy Machine Firm IMA
  • ECB’s Stournaras Says Virus Bond-Plan Exit Depends on Inflation
  • Barclays Signals Economic Pain Ahead With Bad Loan Charges

In FX, some may cite pre-FOMC caution as a reason for renewed USD downside pressure, but in truth the Greenback was already wilting towards the end of Tuesday’s EU session after the DXY failed to build a base back on the 94.000 handle and the index is now struggling to keep sight of 93.500 within a 93.800-385 range. Prior to the main events (policy announcement at 19.00BST and press conference chaired by Powell at 19.30BST), a raft of US data, but nothing top-tier or likely to alter the Buck’s largely luckless fortunes, especially as month end selling could start in earnest from today.

  • AUD/CHF/EUR – The major beneficiaries of the latest US Dollar downturn, with the Aussie within a whisker of recent highs and not too far from 0.7200 in wake of fractionally better than expected Q2 CPI data overnight (though still deflationary and the biggest q/q decline on record). Meanwhile, the Franc is forging fresh multi-year gains through 0.9150 and the Euro has bounced following a test of 1.1700 yesterday to 1.1760+ and eyeing its 1.1781 peak from Monday, which would expose 1.1800 again and a 1.1815-51 resistance zone.
  • GBP/CAD/JPY/NZD – Also advancing mainly at the Greenback’s expense, as Cable breaches another key chart hurdle around 1.2955 to open a path towards option barriers said to be sitting at 1.3000, the Loonie rebounds from sub-1.3400 to circa 1.3340, the Yen makes a more convincing break above 105.00 where 1 bn option expiries reside and the Kiwi returns to pivot 0.6650 after peering above 0.6675 and similar size expiry interest. Note, little sign of angst for the Jpy after Fitch downgraded Japan’s ratings outlook to negative from stable or dovish BoJ commentary via Amamiya.
  • SCANDI/EM – Relatively upbeat Swedish industrial sentiment indicators helping to keep the Krona afloat and a bounce in crude assisting the Norwegian Crown, while EM currencies are deriving varying degrees of support from the broadly weak Buck. However, the Rand is also inflated by SA CPI rising for the first time in 4 months and Lira is lagging even though Turkish banks are said to have sold around Usd 2 bn to defend the Try and the CBRT upgraded it year end inflation forecast to 8.9% from 7.4%.

In commodities, WTI and Brent front month futures are firmer by circa 1% as it stands, with newsflow for the crude complex once again quiet and little aside from last night’s private inventories which printed a larger than expected to draw of 6.83mln. While the complex is supported this morning, it is only some USD 0.20/bbl firmer on the week for WTI and still off the week’s USD 41.91/bbl high and the month’s peak of USD 42.49/oz. For the session ahead focus will be on the EIA report for confirmation of the private release; albeit, expectations look for a modest build of 0.357mln from last week’s more substantial build of 4.892mln. Turning to metals, where spot gold is trading in the middle of a much narrower range after yesterday’s downside action which saw it drop near to the USD 1900/oz mark’ at present, the low is at USD 1948/oz and high some USD 14/oz above this. Elsewhere, Rio Tinto provided a H1 update, the first major iron ore miner to do so, remarking that order books are full given strong China demand for the ore and high prices in H1 helped alleviate COVID-19 related impacts; albeit, noted the recovery for US & Europe is tentative at present.

US Event Calendar

  • 7am: MBA Mortgage Applications, prior 4.1%
  • 8:30am: Advance Goods Trade Balance, est. $75.4b deficit, prior $74.3b deficit
  • 8:30am: Wholesale Inventories MoM, est. -0.5%, prior -1.2%; Retail Inventories MoM, est. -2.7%, prior -6.1%
  • 10am: Pending Home Sales MoM, est. 15.0%, prior 44.3%; YoY, est. 2.2%, prior -10.4%
  • 2pm: FOMC Rate Decision

DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

It was a day of treading carefully whilst working from home yesterday. Every time I went downstairs from my study to the kitchen to make a cuppa or to have lunch I had to watch my step as there were landmines everywhere. Yes yesterday was the day my wife decided to start to potty train our twins and leave their nappies behind forever. To say the results were mixed was an understatement. On day one Eddie has a 10-2 lead over Jamie on the star chart. Jamie kept on missing the target. We’re hoping for a high scoring draw every day for the rest of the week.

There haven’t been too many landmines this week in markets even with last night’s small pullback in US risk assets. From here the news flow should increase in a back-loaded week with a slew of earnings reports (including many large caps) and the conclusion of the FOMC today. Today will also see the CEOs from Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Alphabet come before the US Congress for an antitrust probe aimed at whether the companies are cutting off competition by crowding out smaller rivals.

There was a small taste of what today’s FOMC meeting could offer yesterday when the Fed announced that they are extending most of its emergency lending programs until the end of the year. Our US Economics team does not expect any significant policy announcements later though, instead they expect Chair Powell to set the stage for a more consequential announcement in September, likely around forward guidance, the balance sheet and the policy review later this year. For their full preview see here.

The S&P 500 closed -0.65% with a defensive twist to proceedings as Utilities (+1.56%) and Real Estate (+2.05) led the index higher while Tech Hardware (-1.84%) and Semis (-1.57%) were among the worst industries. With tech underperforming, possibly with some profit-taking ahead of a Fed meeting and month-end, the NASDAQ was down -1.27%.

On the other hand, European stocks gained slightly yesterday with the STOXX 600 up +0.48% as the theme of defensives (Real Estate +2.10% and Food & Bev +1.36%) outperforming persisted here as well. In yesterday’s CoTD we highlighted (see here) how with roughly a third of the S&P having reported, 85% are beating their earnings estimates. This is well ahead of the average 73% beat rate and the highest since our data starts in 2006 according to our colleague Binky Chadha.

Looking at some specific earnings from yesterday, semiconductor-maker Advanced Micro Devices increased its revenue forecast for the full year and was up +10.3% in after-market trading. Pfizer likewise rose (+3.97%) after the company raised its forecast and started a later-stage trial for a coronavirus vaccine. At the same time bellwethers like McDonald’s (-2.47%) and 3M (-4.84%) disappointed. The former saw same-store sales in the second quarter drop by -23.9%, slightly worse than analysts estimated, while the latter saw profits and revenues miss analyst estimates as their margins compressed during the pandemic.

Ahead of the FOMC, the USD index looked to trade positive for the first time in 8 sessions and only the second time in the last 13 and finished +0.03%. Gold rose +0.83%, gaining for the 8th day in a row, even with the dollar drop abating. However, Silver saw a small pullback, down -0.76% yesterday.

Elsewhere, core sovereign bonds were slightly higher as US 10yr yields fell -3.6bps to 0.579% and bunds dropped a smaller -1.7bps to -0.51%. Peripheral bonds showed a little waning risk sentiment as the spread of Italian, Spanish and Portuguese 10yr bonds to bunds rose by +3.3 to 3.6bps each.

Staying in Europe, there continues to be increasing measures to ensure there is no second wave. Greece has now reinstated compulsory mask wearing from today onward in all stores and the majority of indoor public spaces. Yesterday Madrid joined other regions of Spain in mandating face masks in public spaces, including in bars and restaurants. The local government also sought to limit gatherings in the area to 10 people, reducing capacity in public places. This comes even as Spanish Prime Minister Sanchez criticised the U.K. for including some Spanish islands to the country’s list of places that would require travelers to quarantine after returning, calling the decision “unbalanced” and citing the low case counts in those regions. This has caused the UK to re-examine the blanket rules for countries and may result in more tailored guidelines, according to Transport minister Charlotte Vere.

One small example of the difference between the virus in Europe and the US is in how it’s impacting sports. While the English Premier League announced that during the week ending 26 July, nearly 1,600 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19, of which zero tested positive, the American Baseball season has issues as the Miami Marlins have temporarily suspended playing with 17 of 30 players infected just a few games into the start of the season. Overall the US continues to see some case slowing in highly affected Western states such as California and Arizona. Both states saw their one day rise in cases under their weekly averages, while California’s 7-day average daily rise fell to 2% for the first time since early-June and Arizona’s fell to the lowest observed during the pandemic at 1.6%. Meanwhile, the positive-test rate in Texas fell to 12.83%, the lowest since June 25. However the US is still seeing c. 60,000 new cases per day across the country, which is nearly 18,000 more than exactly a month ago. The efforts to suppress the virus are likely to start showing in the macro data within the next few weeks.

In Asia, China reported over a hundred new cases overnight for the first time since it brought the outbreak in Wuhan under control. The majority of cases were reported from Xinjiang province’s capital city Urumqi, where authorities have isolated some communities, restricted public transport and ordered widespread testing. Meanwhile, Australia’s (relatively) hard-hit Victoria state reported 295 new cases in the past 24 hours, the lowest daily tally in 9 days with the state’s premier expressing hope that it is the start of a downward trend. Elsewhere, Hong Kong is mulling postponing September’s legislative elections by a year as the current outbreak is yet to come under control.

Markets in Asia are trading mixed overnight with the Shanghai Comp (+1.05%) outperforming but with the Hang Seng (+0.12%) and Kospi (+0.25%) also up. The Nikkei (-1.01%) is down possibly partly on news that Fitch have revised down the outlook on Japan’s sovereign rating to negative from stable while keeping the rating unchanged. Elsewhere, Futures on the S&P 500 are trading flattish while, spot gold and silver prices are down -0.25% and -0.50% respectively.

In terms of the all important US fiscal situation, Senate Republicans have officially kicked off negotiations with Democrats, though the presented $1trl relief package continues to have detractors in the GOP. While leaders in the Democratic party and the Republican Senators both oppose large portion of the bill, they both conceded that they need to find common ground and that the August recess is a deadline.

Sticking with the US, Democrats Presidential Candidate Joe Biden said overnight that he will seek for an amendment to the Federal Reserve Act that would require the Fed to report on racial economic gaps and what policies they are implementing to close these gaps. He said the Fed’s existing mandate promotes maximum employment and stable prices and “should add to that responsibility, and aggressively target persistent racial gaps in jobs, wages and wealth.” However, his campaign said later that Biden has not explicitly embraced a third mandate for the Fed but seeking one in the future is an option.

On the data front, the main news was out of the US where the Conference Board’s measure of consumer confidence in July fell 5.7pts to 92.6 (vs. 95.0 expected). Tellingly, the drop was led by declines in the “expectations” component, while the “present situation” index continued to improve slightly. There was also a great deal of differentiation on the state by state level. California fell to the lowest level since March 2013, Texas the lowest since Aug 2012, and Florida the lowest since Aug 2016. It is not hard to see this tied to the recent and ongoing spike in covid-19 cases in these states. The overall US level remains at lows last seen in 2016.

Lastly to the day ahead, where the big event is the Federal Reserve meeting in the US and Chair Powell’s press conference. On the data front we will get prints on France’s July consumer confidence, UK June consumer credit, mortgage approvals and M4 money supply. In the US data includes weekly MBA mortgage applications, June advance goods trade balance, pending home sales and preliminary June wholesale inventories. Also it is a large earnings day with Sanofi, Rio into, GlaxoSmithKline, Qualcomm, PayPal, Boeing, Santander, General Electric, General Motors, Barclays and Nomura all reporting.

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Pharma and biotech’s top R&D spenders in 2023: a $153B total with M&A as a focus

At a time when biotech is still counting its losses as a thaw gradually sets in after the long market winter, pharma has been on a tear. M&A took off…



At a time when biotech is still counting its losses as a thaw gradually sets in after the long market winter, pharma has been on a tear. M&A took off in Q4 as the industry’s biggest R&D spenders either rolled the dice on the back of their blockbuster bonanzas, were forced to address gaping holes in the pipeline in the face of looming patent expirations, or simply had no choice in the face of repeated setbacks.

Bioregnum Opinion Column by John Carroll

For some, it was all of the above.

As a result, Merck flipped into the lead position generally occupied by Roche with an M&A-inflated expense line for research. The companies joined a hunt for new drugs frequently focused on Phase III; premiums are in — heavy preclinical risks are out of favor. The majors followed some well-worn paths into immunology and oncology. And 2024 kicked off with a new round of buyouts and licensing deals.

The sudden end of Covid as a vaccine, drug and diagnostic market left the likes of Pfizer scrambling to convince investors that they had an exciting new plan. (It’s not working so far.) Eli Lilly has become one of the most valuable companies on the planet as obesity drugs go mainstream. Leaders like Takeda kept upping the ante on the R&D budget as the numbers frayed, with all but Pfizer and Bristol Myers Squibb — two of the most deeply off-balance biopharmas — spending more in 2023. Across the board, we saw $153 billion accounted for in R&D budget lines for last year — which would have registered as a record even without the sudden bolus of spending at Merck.

New, promising drugs at biotechs aren’t getting cheaper. And some of the blockbusters pharma has to cover as the patent cliff approaches will demand multiple replacement franchises.

The Big 15 have the money, desire and need to do much, much more in R&D. And all signs indicate that we’ll see more through 2024.

  • Merck
  • Roche
  • J&J
  • Novartis
  • AstraZeneca
  • Pfizer
  • Eli Lilly
  • Bristol Myers Squibb
  • GSK
  • AbbVie
  • Sanofi
  • Gilead
  • Takeda
  • Amgen
  • Novo Nordisk

1. Merck: The BD team is remaking the pipeline, and they are moving fast

  • R&D spending 2023: $30.5 billion
  • R&D spending 2022: $13.5 billion
  • Change: +125%
  • Revenue: $60.1 billion
  • R&D as a % of revenue: 51%
  • R&D chief: Dean Li
  • Ticker: $MRK — up 16% in the past year

The big picture: Merck moved up to the top of the list this year by bundling a mother lode of M&A and drug licensing deals into the R&D expense line. Otherwise, the top slot would have gone to Roche, the traditional top title holder in the R&D 15.

Merck has been parlaying its unchallenged position as number one in the PD-1 game with Keytruda — a drug that earned $25 billion last year but will face a loss of exclusivity as patents start to expire in 2028 — into a host of big deals in 2023. Keytruda, meanwhile, has cruised to 39 approvals, leaving Bristol Myers’ Opdivo in its wake.

Too much commercial success, though, doesn’t translate into unending praise. Analysts had been grumbling for some time that Merck wasn’t doing enough to diversify its pipeline bets. But that’s been changing.

Merck tallied $5.5 billion upfront for its Daiichi Sankyo deal — picking up rights to three ADCs in the move — along with the across-the-slate hikes in costs for clinical programs, bigger payrolls and benefits. There was another charge for the $11.4 billion that went to buying Prometheus and Imago. Prometheus accounted for $10.8 billion of that — one of the biggest deals that followed the $11.5 billion Acceleron buyout in 2021. With $690 million in cash for a group of partners that includes Moderna, Orna and Orion.

Merck kicked off the new year with a $680 million buyout of Harpoon Therapeutics, underscoring its enduring interest in the oncology market. And it’s leaving no popular stone unturned, capturing attention with its expressed interest in GLP-1 combos as the next generation of weight loss drugs takes shape.

Merck CEO Rob Davis also recently made it clear that the pharma giant can afford more $1 billion-to-$15 billion deals, making it a top candidate for more deals in 2024.

Merck’s firepower on the deals side, though, is needed after some deep wrinkles marred the pipeline plan, like the FDA’s back-to-back CRLs for chronic cough drug gefapixant. The data, however, never matched up to Merck’s rhetoric. Failures in Alzheimer’s and depression underscored Merck’s traditional ill fortunes in neuro.

Merck has a few years to plan for its next big thing. They show every sign of remaining focused on the big prize ahead.

2. Roche: 2023 was a tough year. Will 2024 be any better on the R&D side?

  • R&D spending 2023:  $16.1 billion/group — pharma and diagnostics (14.2 billion CHF)
  • R&D spending 2022: $16 billion/group (14.1 billion (CHF)
  • Change:
  • Revenue: $67 billion (58.7 billion CHF, -7% from 63.3 billion CHF in 2022)
  • R&D as a % of revenue: 24%
  • R&D chiefs: Hans Clevers (pRED), Aviv Regev (gRED), CMO Levi Garraway
  • Ticker: $RHHBY — down 4.8% in the past year

The big picture: It’s not easy being Roche. The behemoth has long had a near-omnivorous approach to R&D, buying up and down the pipeline at all stages with a big appetite for oncology ahead of neuro, ophthalmology and immunology. This year, it’s had to contend with the elimination of its Covid revenue, once a big player on the diagnostics side as testing soared during the pandemic. They’ve had to lower investors’ expectations of 2024 sales to an embarrassingly modest level and saw their stock price slide.

It’s surprising they have any growth, given the corresponding knockoff competition building for Lucentis and Esbriet, but you can’t play with market expectations. They’ll kill you every time you’re off.

Roche found some silver linings in the Vabysmo franchise and they’ve been a significant player on the M&A side, scoring the Carmot buyout for $3 billion after bagging Telavant for $7.1 billion back in October, paying a price for something Pfizer all but gave away to Roivant. James Sabry and the BD team, meanwhile, have kept up their globetrotting ways, uncorking a slate of deals for JP Morgan.

Sabry moved to global BD chief at Roche after winning his spurs at Genentech, and he’s been in the game for quite a long time. His résumé includes a stint as a biotech CEO. He’s the doyen of dealmakers and isn’t sitting on the sidelines. Hope grows eternal at Roche, and to keep it growing, Sabry has to stay busy.

“We have in total 12 NMEs that could potentially transition into a Phase III during this year,” CEO Thomas Schinecker told analysts hopefully during their Q4 call.

On this scale, Roche tends to do things on a wholesale basis. So when execs recently unveiled a pipeline review, they mapped 146 programs covering 82 new molecular entities. That can be hard to keep up with. If raw numbers like that were a good indicator of future success, though, Roche wouldn’t have these troubles.

It’s less difficult to follow the culls. That includes a slate of neurology drugs, with several axed from the oncology area. The write-offs include the longtime disappointment crenezumab, which had been partnered with AC Immune in Alzheimer’s. Roche recently handed back crenezumab as well as semorinemab after working with AC Immune for close to an R&D generation. Some analysts gave up long ago.

We’ve also been hearing complaints about a lack of upcoming pivotal clinical data to arouse enthusiasm. But Roche has two big R&D groups at work trying to counter those impressions, with gRED (Genentech) and pRED (the traditional Roche research group) at bat. They now have a straight-up GLP-1/GIP drug in the clinic for obesity, with oral therapies in the works alongside many others. It may be late to the obesity game with the Carmot buyout, but Roche still sees opportunities worth paying for.

Execs are promising to play a better R&D game, prioritizing their best assets and piling on resources. But Roche has always been willing to invest heavily in R&D. Now the company needs to see some clinical cards fall its way. This has not been a patient market.

3. J&J: Under new management, J&J doubles down on the innovative side of R&D. Can they still surprise us?

  • R&D spending 2023: $11.96 billion in meds
  • R&D spending 2022: $11.64 billion in meds
  • Change: Up 3%
  • Revenue: $54.7 billion (pharma side)
  • R&D as a % of spending: 21.8%
  • R&D chief: John Reed
  • Ticker: $JNJ —  up 5.3% in the past year

The big picture: J&J typically has weighed in heavy on R&D, particularly if you add its medtech work to the total. Even after splitting that out, though, it’s still in the top five, hoovering up large numbers of early-stage licensing deals while occasionally nabbing something major in the $1 billion-plus category.

Last year the pharma giant punted its consumer division, following the footsteps of many major industry outfits, and shut down its work in infectious diseases and vaccines. RSV, a highly competitive field now, went out the window with a host of smaller programs and alliances. Its major fields of interest zero in on oncology, immunology, cardio and retinal disorders. And they chipped in close to $2 billion to join the ADC hunt in January with its acquisition of Ambrx.

J&J earned a rep for out-of-the-box thinking in oncology under former oncology R&D chief Peter Lebowitz, striking a deal with China’s Legend that delivered an approved drug — Carvykti — and following up with a $245 million pact to gain worldwide rights to another CAR-T from CBMG, a low-profile Chinese biotech that erupted into mainstream view with its Big Pharma deal.

Now the big questions about J&J focus on its new leadership after Joaquin Duato moved into the CEO’s role in 2022 and John Reed — leaping into his third Big Pharma R&D posting in 10 years, following Roche and Sanofi — takes command of the global R&D side of the company.

They have plenty of motivation to hustle up major new approvals. Stelara — raking in more than $10 billion a year — will see its patent protection erode in the US in 2025, with Europe moving first this year. That will take a few big wins to cover.

But J&J has been making big promises for years. Just a few months ago, it touted 20 drugs in the pipeline that could fuel 5% to 7% growth through 2030. One of the prime candidates is a drug they picked up from Protagonist: JNJ-2113, an IL-23 they believe can bring in blockbuster revenue in immunology. J&J, though, is likely far from done when it comes to new deals. Oncology R&D has been changing rapidly in the wake of the Inflation Reduction Act, with researchers moving up OS as a primary initial focus in Phase III. And it’s going to take a behemoth effort to deliver on these numbers, with likely failures and shortfalls along the way.

Don’t look for J&J to cut R&D anytime soon. They have a big agenda.

4. Novartis: Another streamlining move is wrapping up as Novartis vows to get back to basics in R&D — again

  • R&D spending 2023: $11.37 billion
  • R&D spending 2022: $9.17 billion
  • Change: Up 24%
  • Revenue: $45.44 billion
  • R&D as a % of revenue:  27%
  • Development chief: Shreeram Aradhye, NIBR chief: Fiona Marshall
  • Ticker: $NVS — up 31% in the past year

The big picture: Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has been crystal clear about the Big Pharma’s M&A strategy. He’s sticking with the industry sweet spot now in favor: picking up late-stage assets below the $5 billion range. A few weeks ago, that led Novartis to MorphoSys, where they have been partnered for years while distancing themselves from rumors of a pricey Cytokinetics play.

And it springs right off another $3 billion acquisition — for Chinook — that went straight to positive Phase III data for the kidney drug atrasentan, which likely wasn’t much of a surprise inside Novartis.

These days, Narasimhan and Novartis are all about focus. They want to make a deeper impact where they emphasize their priorities — cardio, immunology, neuroscience and oncology. And they also want to be leaders where they are centered, slashing oncology while emphasizing at every opportunity that they jumped out front in radioligands, now a hot commodity in R&D.

Lest anyone forget, Novartis was a pioneer in autologous CAR-T and has held on as it slowly works through all the challenges a cutting-edge technology can inspire.

Narasimhan had been five years before the mast as CEO, after being promoted from development chief, and he’s revising a pipeline strategy away from something he describes now as akin to everything everywhere all at once. Downsizing in 2023 was the big focus, dropping programs, reassigning scientists and promising a swifter pace — a never-ending problem in Big Pharma land. Narasimhan has also been pushing “seamlessness,” projecting a new era of cooperation among scientists and sales.

There’s nothing new about streamlining at Novartis, though. Narasimhan had a billion dollars of cuts in mind back in the spring of 2022. And periodically, the company has been well-known for going in and ironing out budgets. Changes have included an exit for development chief John Tsai, now a biotech CEO, who was replaced by Shreeram Aradhye. Fiona Marshall took the helm at NIBR in the fall of 2022, taking the place of Jay Bradner, who left and later wound up running R&D at Amgen.

The recent cleanup at Novartis included the end of the deal for BeiGene’s PD-1, an area that proved enormously frustrating to Novartis. Their TIGIT pact ended last summer. Phase II for GT005, a gene therapy it picked up in the $800 million Gyroscope buyout, didn’t end well. That program got the axe. And their anti-TGFß antibody, picked up in a small deal with Xoma nine years ago, failed after execs once billed it as a high-risk, high-reward play. Other setbacks include Adakveo, which faced global regulatory challenges following the failure of the Phase III confirmatory study. At the beginning of this year, there was a snafu in Phase III for ligelizumab, once billed as a top asset for peanut allergies.

Warning clouds have also formed around their top-selling drug Entresto, as Novartis fights a battle against the IRA and price negotiations.

The CEO, though, has been able to transition while the stock price was headed up, with a few big drugs driving revenue growth as a struggling Sandoz finally got the heave-ho in a spinout. Their franchise drug Kisqali, for example, is now billed as a $4 billion earner at the peak. As a result, their story has played well on Wall Street. Investors want to see the money and the trajectory. R&D follows sales in priority when it comes to the majors.

5. AstraZeneca: Pascal Soriot never takes defeat lying down. And that stubborn attitude has delivered big dividends as another big R&D test takes shape

  • R&D spending 2023: $10.93 billion
  • R&D spending 2022: $9.76 billion
  • Change: Up 12%
  • Revenue: $45.8 billion
  • R&D as a % of revenue: 24%
  • R&D chiefs: Sharon Barr (biopharmaceuticals); Susan Galbraith (oncology)
  • Ticker: $AZN — up 1.8% in the past year

The big picture: Back in 2018, AstraZeneca reported R&D expenses just under $6 billion. In the past five years, that big line item has grown 85%, and investors have seen the stock price grow 56%.

The R&D leaders at AstraZeneca have changed, but CEO Pascal Soriot has become a longtime fixture at the company. During his stint he took the weakest pipeline in biopharma and turned it into one of the strongest, building a slate of blockbuster oncology franchises while building a research machine based in Cambridge, UK, that consumes about $1 out of every $4 in revenue. He bet the ranch on Enhertu and won, with some analysts bullishly projecting peak sales that will break $10 billion. And he’s kept many of the promises he had to fire out to investors to keep an unwanted Pfizer takeover at bay in the way back when.

So what’s next?

That’s a question that’s vexing quite a few analysts. AstraZeneca is a restless player and the company takes a lot of chances — which means it racks up a lot of setbacks.

A major initiative aimed at protecting its revenue involves its legal fight against the IRA, which AstraZeneca has so far lost. Its next big ADC with Daiichi Sankyo, Dato-DXd, has sparked a running debate on its potential approval and some analysts have doubted if it can live up to the hype following weak PFS results for the TROP2 ADC. Last summer an early-stage GLP-1 went down in flames, unable to take the heat in a kitchen currently controlled by the commercial chefs at Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly. Lokelma, picked up in a 2015 buyout, got hit when R&D decided to quash two Phase III studies, denting once-big hopes for blockbuster status. And Soriot has recently been forced to finally give up on one old failure when he finally punted roxadustat’s US rights.

Soriot, though, is a weathered player when it comes to setbacks. Every loss is an opportunity to do better the next time, and no one can be more stubborn. You could see that play out over Covid when its vaccine came in for some undue criticism that blighted its impact in the face of the mRNA stars. That spurred some angry responses as execs dug in. But there was an unexpected upside. The giant didn’t have to readjust as the Covid market went pfffffft.

Their next step: A couple of months ago AstraZeneca touted its new vaccine platform, buying Icosavax for $838 million in cash while contributing an RSV vaccine to the pipeline — a field where GSK has made major headway — and a virus-like particle platform that the company intends to build on.

Volrustomig, a PD-1/CTLA-4 bispecific antibody, has been accelerated into Phase III, with Soriot claiming a leadership spot in bispecifics: “Our portfolio of bispecifics has the potential to replace the first-generation checkpoint inhibitors across a range of cancers.”

And that GLP-1 fail? Last November AstraZeneca paid $185 million to gain a Phase I GLP-1 drug out of China’s Eccogene. And now they’re mapping combo studies with some of their other drugs in a play at creating the next wave of obesity therapies with an edge.

Word in biopharma is that Soriot has been devoting a considerable amount of face time to China, where he committed the company years ago. That’s another one of those market promises that has seen plenty of ups and downs. But Soriot tends to win the big gambles more than he loses, and in this industry, seeing it through can be a major long-term advantage.

6. Pfizer: What the hell happened to the Covid king?

  • R&D spending 2023: $10.57 billion
  • R&D spending 2022: $11.4 billion
  • Change: -7.3%
  • Revenue: $58.5 billion (down 42% from $100.3 billion)
  • R&D as a % of revenue: 18%
  • R&D chief: Mikael Dolsten
  • Ticker: $PFE — down 29% in the past year

The big picture: There was one brief, shining moment — or two — when Pfizer could seemingly do no wrong. It had taken a leading role in breaking through scientific barriers to create a new Covid vaccine in record time, harvested a bumper crop of cash and CEO Albert Bourla was the darling of the world’s favored pharma industry.

That was then.

Now, Bourla and his team are having a tough time convincing Wall Street that the company can do even simple things right. They paid $43 billion to bag Seagen and mount a major new campaign on the cancer front, but its stock has been blighted and the focus turned to cost-cutting as revenue plunged. There was fresh humiliation when Roivant flipped a drug it had grabbed from Pfizer for lunch money and sold it to Roche for $7.1 billion a year later. And Pfizer has lost the narrative in convincing investors it can get back to growth.

That somewhat hapless rep was burnished considerably when Pfizer reported that its first try at an oral GLP-1 obesity drug had flopped. It’s still working to move the dial in the hottest new field in pharma, but so is a long list of rivals. Instead of spurring renewed faith in Pfizer, the obesity play turned into another example of getting it wrong, and the focus at Pfizer shifted squarely to downsizing and cost-cutting in acknowledgment of the new reality that set in.

Bourla, though, is committed to pushing the story that a new period of growth lies ahead. And it’s not proving easy.

At the end of February, Pfizer made its best pitch for oncology, underscoring plans to seize the leadership role in genitourinary and breast cancer while making promises for eight-plus possible blockbusters in the next six years. R&D promises, though, are easy to make and hard to keep. Right now, the clarion call in pharma is “show me the money.”

With Covid and the mRNA revolution forgotten like last season’s hit show, there’s an enormous gap now that will be devilishly hard to bridge. But don’t expect anyone at Pfizer to stop trying anytime soon.

7. Eli Lilly: Built for the long term, Lilly’s day has arrived — and they don’t want to let go

  • R&D spending 2023: $9.31 billion
  • R&D spending 2022: $7.2 billion
  • Change: +30%
  • Revenue: $34.1 billion
  • R&D as a % of revenue: 27%
  • R&D chief: Dan Skovronsky
  • Ticker: $LLY — up 126% in the past year

The big picture: Historically, Eli Lilly has been known as a ponderously slow pharma outfit that often slowly cruised its way into Phase III squalls. But that view is so 2017. In 2024, Lilly has rebranded itself as the Big Pharma engine that could, and did, blow out expectations. And if it’s still not quite as nimble as some analysts might like, its ability to deliver in massively expensive late-stage studies for drugs aimed at big populations has made it a darling of quite the investor crowd.

Lilly, for example, was thwarted at getting an accelerated approval for its Alzheimer’s med, but that didn’t really cut expectations, with blockbuster peak sales projections — even as Biogen/Eisai’s Leqembi suffers from dimming prospects as their high hopes are lowered by the reality of limited sales in the face of limited efficacy.

That pales, though, in comparison to the bright rainbow that’s emerged in obesity. Lilly continues to work up manufacturing capacity to meet demand for its new obesity version of tirzepatide, the GLP-1/GIP drug building up the diabetes franchise, where neither of the two leaders has been able to meet a seemingly limitless demand.

Lilly attracted considerable attention for its vow to build out manufacturing capacity ahead of Phase III data for its next-gen oral version, orforglipron, while clearly so unhappy about Novo’s decision to muscle in and snap up Catalent that CEO Dave Ricks is grousing about the antitrust implications of their rival’s move. Lilly, though, has bragging rights to solid pivotal data in a market that is nowhere close to saturation point.

Like a lot of the big spenders on the list, Eli Lilly has been hunting new immunology drugs and plunked down $2.4 billion for Dice last summer. That was part of a full slate of acquisitions, including a pair of small ADC companies. Following yet another hot trend, there was a $1.4 billion deal for Point, which put them into radiopharmaceuticals.

Lilly nabbed two new drug approvals last year as it waited on the 2 big franchises in obesity and Alzheimer’s. That’s a testament to the progress that Dan Skovronsky spurred after the global player made him R&D chief 6 years ago. Eli Lilly execs still may not always be first, in an industry where first can be tremendously important to commercialization. But they’ve been right where it counts big in drug development, and it will take a therapeutic earthquake to alter that perception anytime in the near term.

8. Bristol Myers Squibb: A rough year spurs a cut in R&D spending and some major late-stage R&D deals

  • R&D spending 2023:  $9.299 billion
  • R&D spending 2022: $9.5 billion
  • Change: -2%
  • Revenue: $45 billion
  • R&D as a % of revenue: 20.6%
  • Development chief: Samit Hirawat; Research chief: Robert Plenge
  • Ticker: $BMY — down 18% in the past year

The big picture:  This is a terrible time to try and explain why your Big Pharma company has structural issues that flattened or eroded sales revenue. Pfizer understands that and Bristol Myers got a bad taste of it as its shares slid 18% in the last year.

In both cases, the CEOs stepped up with a transition plan. The companies did some deals, but the late-stage stuff wasn’t cheap. And in Bristol Myers’ case, a new CEO was able to draw a line between its aging franchises and the new arrivals on the market, which saw some growth. The company line now: Just wait for the big pipeline hits to come and give us some time to weather the decline of these legacy drugs and you’ll love what you see.

Investors may not be cheering, but Bristol Myers’ stock did get some traction out of it in the last few weeks.

It was clear well before 2023 arrived that Bristol Myers understood it was facing some of those dreaded headwinds. That 2% drop in R&D spending highlighted the tight rein on spending for what remains a top 10 player in the pharma R&D world. Major figures in R&D, headed by Rupert Vessey, exited the company — in Vessey’s case, later making the flip to biotech at Flagship. And there was an unusual spat with Dragonfly after the pharma giant walked away from its $650 million investment.

New CEO Chris Boerner spotlighted the immediate strategy at hand: M&A. Mirati and KRAS came their way for $5.8 billion. RayzeBio happily landed a premium on top of the premium they had just scored in an IPO, as Bristol Myers followed rivals into radiopharmaceuticals. The $14 billion Karuna buyout put them into a late-stage race on Alzheimer’s, another R&D category that’s been enjoying a renaissance some years after pharma fled the scene.

Boerner’s bottom line in the Q4 review is that the company will steer more into bolt-on plays — rather than big buyouts — and licensing deals like the SystImmune alliance. That sets the stage for a “transition” period that will last until 2028, four long years ahead, when it’s promising “top-tier” results. It will also be looking at lower-priced competition for Opdivo.

Even before 2028, though, BMS will start losing patent protection on Eliquis. They’ve already begun price negotiations with Medicare. And Eliquis earned $12.2 billion in 2022, making it their number-one franchise. That’s left Bristol Myers and Pfizer, both under huge pressure to perform and do more late-stage deals, backing a full-court press in the courts to keep generics at bay.

Bristol Myers has had an active dealmaking arm for years, including in the wake of its big $74 billion buyout of Celgene, which also delivered Vessey to the pharma giant. That was just five years ago after Celgene had fallen on some troubled times. Celgene had been a standout in the licensing field, known for sampling a wide variety of drug plays in the industry pipeline. One of Bristol’s big failures, though, was ceding the high ground in PD-1 to Merck’s Keytruda, which has been buoying its rival for years. Bristol needs major drug franchises to make a difference in this world, and any future setbacks on the leading drugs it’s been buying now will not be welcome by investors.

There is a path forward for Bristol, of course, even as it vows to pay down debt. But it’s fairly narrow, and this field is known for some treacherous results.

9. GSK: After picking up some badly-needed revenue steam, what’s next for R&D?

  • R&D spending 2023: $7.9 billion (£6.22 billion)
  • R&D spending 2022: $7 billion (£5.5 billion)
  • Change: +13%
  • Revenue: $39 billion (£30.3 billion)
  • R&D as a % of revenue: 20.5%
  • R&D chief: Tony Wood
  • Ticker: $GSK — up 28% in the past year

The big picture: Tony Wood is still shy of his second anniversary as the CSO at GSK, but with an RSV vaccine riding high as a new blockbuster franchise and Shingrix looking every bit the long-distance franchise player GSK needs, he has a reassuring revenue foundation to work with. ViiV’s steady work in HIV — where GSK is a majority owner — also offers a confidence-building revenue stream. And the departure of the consumer unit is well into the rearview mirror now.

Its stock has done well, too, up 28% in the past year.

That’s quite a changed picture from the early days of his predecessor, Hal Barron, who came in with deep oncology experience and a big need to demonstrate a broad-based pipeline reorganization to overcome a well-earned rep for underperformance. Wood’s first moves in R&D were largely defensive, giving up some major alliances — such as a partnership with Adaptimmune — that looked shaky.

GSK has made a lot of early bets, and the risks involved naturally portend that many of its deals won’t survive. You can see that in play right through its recent decision to dump a pair of Vir partnerships in infectious diseases.

In their place, GSK has been inking major new development deals with the likes of China’s Hansoh, for ADCs. Oncology, though, is still only a small performer overall. And it’s been a focus for a while.

GSK spent a billion dollars upfront to bag a mid-stage asthma drug at Aiolos in a rare M&A deal. There was also the $2 billion Bellus buyout last fall, with an eye to creating a new franchise for chronic cough. But there’s been a notable absence of any splashy deals at GSK, with a reorg in research that offers GSK’s latest take on improving efficiency.

We’ll see how that goes.

In the meantime, GSK is doing what it can to stir up some excitement for late-stage drugs like depemokimab (again in asthma), camlipixant (from Bellus) as well as the antibiotic gepotidacin for UTIs/gonorrhea. It’s an uphill fight, though, without much megablockbuster razzmatazz built in. But GSK is a careful player.

After getting stuck with the rep for having one of the worst pipelines in pharma, though, reliable and steady progress with a high-profile launch in RSV will suit just fine. At least for now. It’s likely that investors will keep pressing for something big in Phase III, and that could cost CEO Emma Walmsley a considerable amount of BD money.

10. AbbVie: The slow-motion collapse of Humira keeps them focused on the bottom line while growing R&D spending

  • R&D spending 2023: $7.67 billion
  • R&D spending 2022: $6.51 billion
  • Change: Up 18%
  • Revenue: $54.3 billion
  • R&D as a % of revenue: 14%
  • CMO: Roopal Thakkar
  • Ticker: $ABBV — up 18% in the past year

The big picture: As Rick Gonzalez finishes his final run as CEO, he’s able to look back on a year that saw AbbVie complete its revamp period as the long-awaited — long, long-awaited — arrival of generic Humira bites into its old cash cow.

The great split at Abbott that created AbbVie set up a scenario where the company would pull out every stop to milk Humira for every conceivable dollar possible, delivering mega-returns while Gonzalez became the poster child of patent reform. The bottom line for AbbVie’s team: What’s repeated waves of congressional criticism with the stock price on the line?

Now AbbVie is able to boost expected revenue on the two big drugs developed on Gonzalez’s watch — Skyrizi and Rinvoq — with two new acquisitions to feed future sales projections. The buyout of Botox created a new, highly reliable franchise for AbbVie’s commercial team to lean on.

AbbVie is skilled at acquiring and building revenue. It had its eyes set on the ADC drug Elahere when it acquired ImmunoGen for $10 billion. Initially approved in 2022 for ovarian cancer, the drug is now being positioned for earlier lines of therapy.

Less than a week after the ImmunoGen deal was announced, AbbVie was back for a late-stage acquisition with the $8.7 billion for Cerevel’s neuro play. The deal will bring in clinical-stage assets for schizophrenia, Parkinson’s and dementia, as CNS moves back into a warmer phase in Wall Street circles. Both buyouts underscore Big Pharma’s considerable appetite for new products, with premiums in play for de-risked drug programs.

Gonzalez’s departure barely caused a murmur on the markets, which is a testament to his success in delivering for shareholders a secure, long-term rebuild. His legacy is a company with a ruthless rep for shepherding drug revenue while building a big interest in curtailing patents for pharma. But looking only at the numbers, he proved the winner at the company as the game was played during his tenure.

11. Sanofi: Paul Hudson is still out to make a great first impression in R&D

  • R&D spending 2023: $7.09 billion (6.509 billion euros)
  • R&D spending 2022: $7.08 billion (6.503 billion euros)
  • Change:  flat
  • Revenue: $41.3 billion (37.9 billion euros)
  • R&D as a % of revenue: 17.1%
  • R&D chief: Houman Ashrafian
  • Ticker: $SNY — up 2.8% in the past year

The big picture: When Paul Hudson showed up in San Francisco for JP Morgan in January, ready to talk up plans for the road ahead, he noted: “It feels like a lot longer than four years that we’ve been on this journey.”

But Hudson has always been more comfortable sounding like a newly-coined CEO, plotting a turnaround. And in the last few months, he’s played every card in that deck. The announcement late last year that Sanofi is bumping its R&D budget is central to that theme, though the news of its impact on profitability led to a rout of the stock price. And he delights in spotlighting late-stage assets, even though a slate of his early bets failed or have yet to prove themselves.

In what is now standard in pharma, Hudson made what he could out of the news he was spinning out the consumer division. Again, though, investors were less than thrilled by the gambit.

This time around the PR track, Hudson has boasting rights to the recently approved RSV drug Beyfortus, which comes with some big peak sales projections from Jefferies and much, much less from others. We’ll know soon enough if this is a winner or the latest disappointment at Sanofi. And, as always, there’s the Sanofi touchstone: Its megablockbuster Dupixent, which the pharma giant was able to partner on with Regeneron years ago — keeping the franchise fresh and expanding. Dupixent is the cash cow that gives Sanofi the financial strength needed to move ahead.

And that means there’s capacity for more dealmaking.

Not long after the San Francisco appearance, Hudson followed up on his M&A assurances with a $1.7 billion drug buyout, carving out a Phase II drug for a rare disease called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, or AATD. It fits right into the zone for 2024, where pharma can only get positive attention for something within sight of an approval.

Like others on this list, Sanofi’s R&D rep will ultimately rest on its ability to deliver on the 12 would-be blockbusters the company is betting on. That includes three “products in a pipeline“: amlitelimab, frexalimab and SAR441566 (oral TNFR1si). They’re followed by tolebrutinib, lunsekimig, rilzabrutinib, an anti-TL1A in IBD, an IRAK4 degrader and itepekimab for COPD.

Behind it all, Hudson has also been promising to make Sanofi a leader in AI-assisted pharma operations. Sanofi, though, has been promising a makeover in innovation for well over a decade and has done nothing to prove it’s worked beyond staying on track with the megablockbuster it got from Regeneron. One breakout franchise delivered on Hudson’s watch would change that in a heartbeat.

We’re waiting.

12. Gilead: The CEO gambled on big innovation — and often lost. But the wagers keep coming

  • R&D spending 2023: $5.72 billion
  • R&D spending 2022: $4.98 billion
  • Change: +14.6%
  • Revenue: $27.1 billion
  • R&D as a % of revenue: 21%
  • CMO: Merdad Parsey
  • Ticker: $GILD — down 5.3% over the past year

The big picture: Daniel O’Day jumped into the CEO job at Gilead five years ago and hit the ground running. He hasn’t stopped, even though some of his biggest bets have run into brick walls.

That was apparent weeks ago with the news that Gilead would ice its work on blood cancer involving magrolimab, the CD47 drug picked up in a $5 billion buyout back in 2020. Their mid-stage work on solid tumors ground to a halt shortly after.

Rehashing and refocusing their deal with Arcus, putting in significantly more money while axing one of the Phase IIIs, didn’t help.

Gilead’s rep was built around HIV, where it has remained dominant, though more than a bit taken for granted. The old regime’s follow-up — after a cloudburst of cash for curing hep C that quickly dried up — was to buy out Kite and take a pioneering position in CAR-T, which hasn’t lived up to the financial hype that attended its arrival, despite the clear scientific innovation it brought to the field.

The stock was hammered hard in January after Trodelvy — acquired in the 2020 Immunomedics buyout, which achieved blockbuster status last year — failed a Phase III in second-line lung cancer.

But when you raise doubts and see your stock sinking, counter with a late-stage buyout. That’s clearly what O’Day had in mind when he plunked down more than $4 billion to buy CymaBay after the biotech unveiled late-stage data on seladelpar. Gilead bought a would-be blockbuster with a PDUFA date. And that’s a sign of some desperation at a company that badly needs a breakout.

13. Takeda: Moving up another notch on the top 15, as profitability wobbles, Takeda execs are still reaching for the golden ring in R&D

  • R&D spending 2023: $4.93 billion
  • R&D spending 2022: $4.49 billion
  • Change: +10%
  • Revenue: $29.54 billion
  • R&D as a % of revenue: 17%
  • R&D chief: Andy Plump
  • Ticker: $TAK — down 8.4% in the past year

The big picture: Takeda has been aggressively taking chances in R&D right from the time CEO Christophe Weber and R&D chief Andy Plump teamed up to remake the aging Japanese pharma company into a global drug player back in 2015. That meant steadily upping the ante in R&D — now up another slot in this year’s rankings — and investing in deals like the Shire buyout, which gave Plump his base in the Cambridge/Boston hub, along with a big stake in rare diseases.

For Takeda, that mission meant a broad effort to develop a major pipeline, from collaborations through Phase III. More recently, it’s been about concentrating their new work around a pair of key deals, particularly the $4 billion acquisition of Nimbus’ TYK2. It likely wasn’t much of a surprise, but their drug — which also has a $2 billion rider for milestones — cleared a Phase IIb hurdle in psoriatic arthritis.

For Takeda, it’s a clear indication of just how popular it is these days for pharma players to zero in on late-stage therapies in search of relatively near-term approvals.

Want more evidence of that?

Takeda bet $400 million in cash and more than a billion dollars in milestones to gain rights to Hutchmed’s fruquintinib and then was rewarded with an approval for treatment-naive cases of colorectal cancer in the fall. And they demonstrated its continued appetite in the rare disease space with the recent $300 million deal for Protagonist’s late-stage drug rusfertide, designed to treat a rare blood disease called polycythemia vera (PV).

The risks it’s taken on have been readily apparent to Takeda’s leaders, with its decision to drop Exkivity after flunking the Phase III NSCLC confirmatory trial, a Phase II fail for its key metachromatic leukodystrophy program, as well as a decision to drop Theravance as a partner after a seven-year alliance. The late-stage setbacks cost Takeda a $770 million write-down. Add in a loss of exclusivity for Vyvanse in 2023 — a $3 billion blockbuster in fiscal 2022 — and you have the outlines of unsteady performance for the pharma player, with Weber promising to do better in the near term.

Takeda is unusual in the Big Pharma world for winding up its fiscal year at the end of March. In order to do an apples-to-apples comparison, they prepared a summary of their R&D expenses and revenue for all of 2023 for Endpoints News.

14. Amgen: Capitalizing on a history of striking high-profile deals, Amgen stays in the spotlight

  • R&D spending 2023: $4.8 billion
  • R&D spending 2022: $4.4 billion
  • Change: Up 9%
  • Revenue: $28.2 billion
  • R&D as a % of revenue: 17%
  • R&D chief: Jay Bradner
  • Ticker: $AMGN — up 18% over the last year

The big picture: Amgen is a considerable distance from spending on research like the top 10 players in our R&D 15, but it frequently finds ways to box competitively in the biggest heavyweight category. It had done that with KRAS, taking a legit scientific advance that couldn’t quickly move the dial in a major way on the commercial side. That happens a lot in oncology. And now it’s in the spotlight with an obesity drug — branded as MariTide now — with hopes to take on the likes of Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk.

The chutzpah originates with longtime CEO Bob Bradway, who has parlayed his Wall Street cred as a former banker at Morgan Stanley into major league status with a savvy understanding of the numbers and investors. He skillfully navigated the $28 billion Horizon buyout last year, bagging a lineup of commercial therapies as the company looks for the approaching patent cliff on Enbrel, a reliable blockbuster that has kept the revenue flowing in.

Amgen may not do a lot in M&A or Phase III, but what it does do, it does with style.

To complete the Horizon deal, Bradway had to orchestrate a deal with the FTC to skirt its objections to price bundling, which essentially leaves the pharma company on commercial probation with regular reporting to the federal agency. That took skill and boldness while maintaining the CEO’s rep for delivering on the bottom line. Its stock is up 18% over the past year.

Analysts will be watching carefully to see how Jay Bradner does in the top R&D post after the Harvard prof-and-former-NIBR chief assumes the seat of David Reese, now chief technology officer. Reese seems truly energized in his new role heading up tech, and Bradner is a die-hard research enthusiast who loves nothing better than jumping into conversations about the details of target degeneration.

Amgen is all about message.

15. Novo Nordisk: The longtime diabetes franchise player has a breakout run going in obesity — with vows to stay in front

  • R&D spending 2023: $4.7 billion (32.4 billion Danish Krone)
  • R&D spending 2022: $3.5 billion (24 billion Danish Krone)
  • Change: 34%
  • Revenue: $22 billion (232.2 billion Danish Krone)
  • R&D as a % of revenue: 14%
  • R&D chief: Marcus Schindler
  • Ticker: $NOVO — up 87% in the past year

The big picture: R&D spending as a percentage of sales has edged up a bit in the last few years, but the key driver here is GLP-1, where Novo has capitalized on its first-in-class leadership position in obesity. After decades spent in the shadow of chronic R&D failure, safety issues and a recent swarm of largely ineffective drugs, the obesity field is crushing it. That has swelled sales revenue as semaglutide glowed, so Novo’s research spending has boomed at a fast pace.

Now that the good times are rolling, and Novo already has a well-earned rep as a realistic and committed player in diabetes, which didn’t come cheap or easy, the new player on the R&D 15 is promising to stay out front — no easy task with Eli Lilly gunning for it. Novo has been snapping up new obesity tech at a furious pace, determined to stay out front.

Its one limiting factor here has been manufacturing capacity. Novo can’t satisfy the demand for a drug that is now a staple of public conversation, as the field gets a boost from a wide range of celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey. That’s marketing you could buy, but don’t have to. It’s coming for free.

With uncharacteristic bravado, Novo doubled down by striking a deal to acquire the global CDMO giant Catalent for $16.5 billion, and Lilly has been fuming about the antitrust aspects as CEO Dave Ricks complains that worldwide manufacturing capacity has either been maxed out or is not easily converted from its existing uses.

Novo’s commitment to growing R&D has international implications that far exceed the limits of its home country of Denmark, extending to hubs in Oxford, Seattle and Beijing. Most recently, Novo has committed to boosting its Boston-area research hub. And it’s likely to remain a key player in its dominant fields — unless some other tech can topple the megablockbuster that is remaking this company.

Novo may be at the end of this list in terms of R&D spending, but it has overachieved with its success for semaglutide. It has the capacity to do more and should continue to climb for several years to come as it makes a case for continued growth.

Postscript: Regeneron, with $4.44 billion in research spending — up 23% over $3.6 billion in 2022 — deserves an honorable mention in the competitive 16th spot. This year, Regeneron expects R&D spending to top up at or close to $5 billion. The company’s value has swollen on the success of its high-profile founders, Len Schleifer and George Yancopoulos, who continue to build the company — hitting a market cap in excess of $100 billion with the stock up 29% over the past year. Regeneron will likely find its way into the top 15 at some point, and we’ll be watching for it.

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Bitcoin on Wheels: The Story of Bitcoinetas

Meet the Bitcoinetas, a fleet of transformative vehicles on a mission to spread the bitcoin message everywhere they go. From Argentina to South Africa,…



You may have seen that picture of Michael Saylor in a bitcoin-branded van, with a cheerful guy right next to the car door. This one:

Ariel Aguilar and La Bitcoineta European Edition at BTC Prague.

That car is the Bitcoineta European Edition, and the cheerful guy is Ariel Aguilar. Ariel is part of the European Bitcoineta team, and has previously driven another similar car in Argentina. In fact, there are currently five cars around the world that carry the name Bitcoineta (in some cases preceded with the Spanish definite article “La”).

Argentina: the original La Bitcoineta

The story of Bitcoinetas begins with the birth of 'La Bitcoineta' in Argentina, back in 2017. Inspired by the vibrancy of the South American Bitcoin community, the original Bitcoineta was conceived after an annual Latin American Conference (Labitconf), where the visionaries behind it recognized a unique opportunity to promote Bitcoin education in remote areas. Armed with a bright orange Bitcoin-themed exterior and a mission to bridge the gap in financial literacy, La Bitcoineta embarked on a journey to bring awareness of Bitcoin's potential benefits to villages and towns that often remained untouched by mainstream financial education initiatives. Operated by a team of dedicated volunteers, it was more than just a car; it was a symbol of hope and empowerment for those living on the fringes of financial inclusion.

The concept drawing for La Bitcoineta from December 2017.

Ariel was part of that initial Argentinian Bitcoineta team, and spent weeks on the road when the car became a reality. The original dream to bring bitcoin education even to remote areas within Argentina and other South American countries came true, and the La Bitcoineta team took part in dozens of local bitcoin meetups in the subsequent years.

The original La Bitcoineta from Argentina.

One major hiccup came in late 2018, when the car was crashed into while parked in Puerto Madryn. The car was pretty much destroyed, but since the team was possessed by a honey badger spirit, nothing could stop them from keeping true to their mission. It is a testament to the determination and resilience of the Argentinian team that the car was quickly restored and returned on its orange-pilling quest soon after.

Argentinian Bitcoineta after a major accident (no-one got hurt); the car was restored shortly after.

Over the more than 5 years that the Argentinian Bitcoineta has been running, it has traveled more than 80,000 kilometers - and as we’ll see further, it inspired multiple similar initiatives around the world.

Follow La Bitcoineta’s journey:



El Salvador: Bitcoin Beach

In early 2021, the president of El Salvador passed the Bitcoin Law, making bitcoin legal tender in the country. The Labitconf team decided to celebrate this major step forward in bitcoin adoption by hosting the annual conference in San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador. And correspondingly, the Argentinian Bitcoineta team made plans for a bold 7000-kilometer road trip to visit the Bitcoin country with the iconic Bitcoin car.

However, it proved to be impossible to cross so many borders separating Argentina and Salvador, since many governments were still imposing travel restrictions due to a Covid pandemic. So two weeks before the November event, the Labitconf team decided to fund a second Bitcoineta directly in El Salvador, as part of the Bitcoin Beach circular economy. Thus the second Bitcoineta was born.

Salvadoran’s Bitcoineta operates in the El Zonte region, where the Bitcoin Beach circular economy is located.

The eye-catching Volkswagen minibus has been donated to the Bitcoin Beach team, which uses the car for the needs of its circular economy based in El Zonte.

Follow Bitcoin Beach:


South Africa: Bitcoin Ekasi

Late 2021 saw one other major development in terms of grassroots bitcoin adoption. On the other side of the planet, in South Africa, Hermann Vivier initiated the Bitcoin Ekasi project. “Ekasi” is a colloquial term for a township, and a township in the South African context is an underdeveloped urban area with a predominantly black population, a remnant of the segregationist apartheid regime. Bitcoin Ekasi emerged as an attempt to introduce bitcoin into the economy of the JCC Camp township located in Mossel Bay, and has gained a lot of success on that front.

Bitcoin Ekasi was in large part inspired by the success of the Bitcoin Beach circular economy back in El Salvador, and the respect was mutual. The Bitcoin Beach team thus decided to pass on the favor they received from the Argentinian Bitcoineta team, and provided funds to Bitcoin Ekasi for them to build a Bitcoineta of their own.

Bitcoin Ekasi’s Bitcoineta as seen at the Adopting Bitcoin Cape Town conference.
Bitcoin Ekasi’s Bitcoineta as seen at the Adopting Bitcoin Cape Town conference. Hermann Vivier is seen in the background.
South African Bitcoineta serves the needs of Bitcoin Ekasi, a local bitcoin circular economy in the JCC Camp township.

Bitcoin Ekasi emerged as a sister organization of Surfer Kids, a non-profit organization with a mission to empower marginalized youths through surfing. The Ekasi Bitcoineta thus partially serves as a means to get the kids to visit various surfer competitions in South Africa. A major highlight in this regard was when the kids got to meet Jordy Smith, one of the most successful South African surfers worldwide.

Coincidentally, South African surfers present an intriguing demographic for understanding Bitcoin due to their unique circumstances and needs. To make it as a professional surfer, the athletes need to attend competitions abroad; but since South Africa has tight currency controls in place, it is often a headache to send money abroad for travel and competition expenses. The borderless nature of Bitcoin offers a solution to these constraints, providing surfers with an alternative means of moving funds across borders without any obstacles.

Photo taken at the South African Junior Surfing Championships 2023. Back row, left to right:

Mbasa, Chuma, Jordy Smith, Sandiso. Front, left to right: Owethu, Sibulele.

To find out more about Bitcoineta South Africa and the non-profit endeavors it serves, watch Lekker Feeling, a documentary by Aubrey Strobel:

Follow Bitcoin Ekasi:



Europe: Bitcoineta Europa

The European Bitcoineta started its journey in early 2023, with Ariel Aguilar being one of the main catalysts behind the idea. Unlike its predecessors in El Salvador and South Africa, the European Bitcoineta was not funded by a previous team but instead secured support from individual donors, reflecting a grassroots approach to spreading financial literacy.

European Bitcoineta sports a hard-to-overlook bitcoin logo along with the message “Bitcoin is Work. Bitcoin is Time. Bitcoin is Hope.”

The European Bitcoineta is a Mercedes box van adorned with a prominent Bitcoin logo and inspiring messages, and serves as a mobile hub for education and discussion at numerous European Bitcoin conferences and local meetups. Inside its spacious interior, both notable bitcoiners and bitcoin plebs share their insights on the walls, fostering a sense of camaraderie and collaboration.

Inside the European Bitcoineta, one can find the wall of fame, where visitors can read messages from prominent bitcoiners such as Michael Saylor, Uncle Rockstar, Javier Bastardo, Hodlonaut, and many others.
On the “pleb wall”, any bitcoiner can share their message (as long as space permits).

Follow Bitcoineta Europa’s journey:



Ghana: Bitcoineta West Africa


Introduced in December 2023 at the Africa Bitcoin Conference in Ghana, the fifth Bitcoineta was donated to the Ghanaian Bitcoin Cowries educational initiative as part of the Trezor Academy program.

Bitcoineta West Africa was launched in December 2023 at the Africa Bitcoin Conference. Among its elements, it bears the motto of the Trezor Academy initiative: Bitcoin. Education. Freedom.

Bitcoineta West Africa was funded by the proceeds from the bitcoin-only limited edition Trezor device, which was sold out within one day of its launch at the Bitcoin Amsterdam conference.

With plans for an extensive tour spanning Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, and potentially other countries within the ECOWAS political and economic union, Bitcoineta West Africa embodies the spirit of collaboration and solidarity in driving Bitcoin adoption and financial inclusion throughout the Global South.

Bitcoineta West Africa surrounded by a group of enthusiastic bitcoiners at the Black Star Square, Accra, Ghana.

Follow Bitcoineta West Africa’s journey:



All the Bitcoineta cars around the world share one overarching mission: to empower their local communities through bitcoin education, and thus improve the lives of common people that might have a strong need for bitcoin without being currently aware of such need. As they continue to traverse borders and break down barriers, Bitcoinetas serve as a reminder of the power of grassroots initiatives and the importance of financial education in shaping a more inclusive future. The tradition of Bitcoinetas will continue to flourish, and in the years to come we will hopefully encounter a brazenly decorated bitcoin car everywhere we go.

If the inspiring stories of Bitcoinetas have ignited a passion within you to make a difference in your community, we encourage you to take action! Reach out to one of the existing Bitcoineta teams for guidance, support, and inspiration on how to start your own initiative. Whether you're interested in spreading Bitcoin education, promoting financial literacy, or fostering empowerment in underserved areas, the Bitcoineta community is here to help you every step of the way. Together, we will orange pill the world!

This is a guest post by Josef Tetek. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.

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Spread & Containment

SoCal Industrial Prioritizes Speed, Power and Sustainability 

Movement is key in the SoCal industrial space. Industrial real estate occupies some 200 million square feet of space in the SoCal region, with much of…



Movement is key in the SoCal industrial space. Industrial real estate occupies some 200 million square feet of space in the SoCal region, with much of the activity driven by the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach. The swift movement – not storage – of goods from the port to their destinations, is priority. Currently, the industrial vacancy rate sits at 4%. While the increase in e-commerce during the COVID-19 pandemic caused industrial volume in the region to surge, volumes have declined 30% over the past year, returning to more normal, though still high, levels comparable to 2019.  

Attendees of I.CON West in Long Beach, California, had the opportunity to visit three impressive industrial properties in the SoCal region. The projects by Goodman, Watson Land Company and Bridge Industrial are in three different phases of completion and range in size from 165,000-500,000 square feet. 

The I.CON West group toured a 90-acre site in Long Beach purchased by Goodman, a globally traded real estate company, five years ago. The Goodman Commerce Center Long Beach was previously a Boeing manufacturing center with 100-foot clear heights that made it well suited for the current tenant Relativity, a company that makes 3-D printed rockets.  

Power is a major consideration for tenants in the region. Tenants are also asking for clear heights that are increasingly taller; the typical height in 2012 was closer to 32 feet, but buildings in the area are inching closer to the 40-foot range.  

Environmental concerns are top of mind in California. Long Beach requires a methane mitigation system and Boeing also required a vapor barrier to be added to the site as part of their land use covenant. The area was previously heavily comprised of oil fields, so vapor barriers are common. The state is working toward a 2035 goal of having 100% of new cars and light trucks sold in California be zero-emission vehicles, so sites are considering the current usage and future expansion of EV charging stations. Goodman’s site is equipped with 26 EV-charging stations but has the capability to expand to 100 more, as needs require. 

Watson Land Company’s site in Carson, California, is located in the South Bay, an area that includes many 1980s-era Class B buildings that are being redeveloped to meet modern usage and demand.  

One of the main challenges faced in this area is the heavy clay soil; Watson had to install an underground storm drain system to allow for percolation.  

One of the main advantages of the area is that it’s within the “Overweight Container Corridor” that allows for heavier vehicles – up to 95,000 pounds – to pass through with containers from the port.  

Watson Land Company is pursuing U.S. Green Building Council LEED Gold certification for this site; they were able to reuse or recycle 98.6% of the material crushed from the previous buildings. The company aims for LEED Silver or Gold in many of their buildings in California, part of its early legacy dating to the founding of Watson Land Company in 1912 with a commitment to serve as “good stewards of the land.” 

Another feature of the Watson Land Company’s building: ample skylights – a 3% skylight to roof ratio – and clerestory windows to bring in maximum natural light. 

For the final stop of the tour, attendees visited a former brownfield site in Torrance, California, developed by Bridge Industrial. Bridge Industrial considers their team problem solvers who can tackle sites like this one that require significant remediation. They have transformed the brownfield site into a modern, airy industrial facility with two stories of office space.  

Power, again, came up as a critical concern for tenants. Bridge Industrial used to provide 2,000 amps as the standard but now provides 4,000 amps as the new standard in response to tenant needs. One of Bridge Industrial’s buildings in Rancho Cucamonga (roughly a two-hour drive east from Long Beach) offers 4,000 amps with provisions for additional future service up to an astonishing 8,000 amps.   

With the dual ports and the LAX airport nearby, SoCal is poised to continue its strong industrial presence. Port activity, environmental regulations and evolving tenant demands – including for increasing power capabilities – are critical considerations for developers, owners and investors operating in this bustling region.

This post is brought to you by JLL, the social media and conference blog sponsor of NAIOP’s I.CON West 2024. Learn more about JLL at or

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