Pre-holiday fundraisers look to be having a jolly time, as debt and equity deals topped $1.6 billion in the first week of December. And in keeping with the season, some companies - much like most consumers - are choosing to fund a portion of their holiday operating expenses on credit. To that end, the debt engine cranked up last week with two companies selling $1 billion of convertible notes. Cephalon and reagent supplier Invitrogen (IVGN) each placed $500 million and both deals were bumped up, as CEPH filed earlier in the week to raise $300 million, and IVGN filed to raise $400 million. Neurological company CEPH will use a portion of the proceeds to help fund its $450 million cash purchase of pharmaceutical company Group Lafon (see Ebb & Flow Focus, A17).

In addition to the mega-note deals, ConjuChem (TSE:CJC), which develops modified versions of existing drugs using its bioconjugation technology, raised C$30 million (US$19.1 million) through the sale of a 7-year convert to Baker/Tisch Capital.

Season of sharing

Even with credit flowing, follow-on equity continues to get priced. Five companies priced $427.4 million of shares last week. Two deals closed on Friday - BioMarin (BMRN) and Atrix (ATRX). The latter now is a double-dipper in the follow-on well. ATRX raised $13 million through the sale of 565,000 shares at $23 through Banc of America Securities. The drug delivery and dental play raised $79.4 million in a follow-on in August, and elected to go back to the market because it had seen strong demand and it had some extra shares available from a previously filed shelf registration.

Therapeutic enzyme developer BMRN raised $84 million through the sale of 7 million shares at $12, in a syndicate that included UBS Warburg LLC; CIBC World Markets; and U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray. BMRN filed to sell 6 million shares on Nov. 9, when its stock price was $12.19.

The big deals came earlier in the week. On Monday, Neurocrine (NBIX) raised $163.6 million through the sale of 3.5 million shares at $46.75 through Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown; CS First Boston; CIBC World Markets; Lehman; and UBS Warburg. NBIX bumped up its deal by 250,000 shares and priced it $1.78 above its filing price of $44.97. The developer of drugs for neurological and metabolic conditions closed Friday at $49.36.

On Tuesday cardiovascular play CV Therapeutics (CVTX) raised $150.9 million through the sale of 2.9 million shares (sold shoe included) at $52.50 through J.P. Morgan; Robertson Stephens; Bear Stearns; CIBC World Markets; Morgan Stanley; SG Cowen; U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray; and First Albany.

In Canada, cancer and infectious disease play Stressgen (TSE:SSB) raised C$25 million (US$15.9 million) in a bought deal through Raymond James; BMO Nesbitt Burns; and Yorkton Securities. SSB sold 6 million shares at C$4.15 (US$2.64).

New issues remain on freeze-out, underscored Xcyte's decision to pull its IPO. The company, which is developing technology to activate and grow a patient's T cells ex vivo, originally filed last December to raise up to $86.3 million.