In good economic times, companies that run into problems can often avoid tough decisions - such as dropping programs or employees, or shutting their doors - by raising money from less savvy investors. Meanwhile, disgruntled investors can simply move money to more attractive opportunities. These days, however, the choices seem to be both more stark and more contentious, as investors have fewer ways to make money.
Maneuvering around four companies last week illustrated the various permutations.
Biotechnology Value Fund's Mark Lampert called on the board of Avigen (NASDAQ:AVGN) to return the company's cash to shareholders; Elan(NYSE:ELN) announced a restructuring that was rumored to be spurred in part by shareholder complaints; Curalogic (CSE:CUR) decided to shut down; and activist shareholders told Trinity Biotech (NASDAQ:TRIB) they would not be deterred from their planned board coup d'etat.
Having spent most of the year thinking about its strategic options after deciding to halt all its oral immunotherapy programs, Curalogic has concluded that its best choice is to throw in the towel and return the remaining cash to shareholders.
Chairman Jakob Schmidt told Ebb & Flow that for the past 11 months management had been in discussions with companies in both the U.S. and Europe regarding its remaining assets.
Schmidt noted that while there were little to no clinical assets left, there was significant interest not only in the company's cash - expected to be DKK281 million ($48.6 million) at YE08 - but also in its public listing on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange and its unused tax loss carry forward, which at Dec. 31, 2007, was DKK66 million ($12.9 million).
"However, in our attempts to find a suitable company to reverse merge into Curalogic, we noticed a significant discrepancy between valuations of publicly listed companies versus the anticipated value of private companies. There are a number of well-positioned public biotechs being valued below their cash position, whereas private entities still believed their assets were worthy of a high valuation," he told Ebb & Flow.
Management concluded that this implied putting the cash of the public entity into a more highly valued private entity - arguably short-changing Curalogic's existing stockholders by diluting their ownership. "The board concluded that it was in the best interest