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Archive for the ‘Net Cash Stocks’ Category

Farukh Farooqi has a typically excellent post at Oozing Alpha on Furiex Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:FURX):

FURX, spun off from PPDI on 6/14/10, is a $10 stock with net cash (cash minus all liabilities) of $10 per share. It earns royalties on two drugs already in the market with potential milestone payments of $14.40 per share. It has three other programs in its R&D pipeline. According to some Street estimates, the value of Furiex’s royalties & pipeline is $30-$36 per share.

The entire float has traded since the spin-off, and selling pressure may soon begin to recede. As part of the spin-off, 18% of the equity is set aside for management. In addition, the Chairman owns 6% of the outstanding shares.

Spin-Off Background: On June 14, 2010, Pharmaceutical Products Development Inc. (PPDI), a Contract Research Organization, spun off its drug discovery business to shareholders in a tax free transaction.

The main motivation behind the spin-off was to separate a cash flow generating, service business (PPDI) from a cash utilizing, biotech division (FURX). PPDI has 118 mm shares and for every 12 shares of PPDI, shareholders got one share of FURX.

FURX has a market cap of $100 mm, tiny when compared to PPDI’s $2.9 billion equity cap.

Hence, the spun-off stock is not likely to have much appeal for PPDI shareholders who are mainly interested in the CRO business or those can’t own a small-cap stock.

Sure enough, FURX began trading in the high teens on June 1 and has dropped to $10 on no new news.

Value Proposition: I was browsing through some old analysts’ reports written when PPDI announced the spinoff to see what they thought of the development business (now Furiex).

In a report dated 10/29/2009, Barclays had assigned a value of $1 per PPDI share to Priligy and $1 per PPDI share to Alogliptin + Dermatology portfolio. This translates $236 mm since PPDI has 118 mm shares out. Add to this, net cash of $94 mm injected into the spin off and it adds up to $33 per FURX share.
Thomas Weisel, in a report dated 10/27/2009, valued Spinco at $2.50-$3.00 per PPDI share or $30-$36 per FURX share.

See the post at Oozing Alpha.

No Position.

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Forward Industries Inc (NASDAQ:FORD) has filed its 10K for the period ended September 30, 2009.

We started following FORD (see the post archive here) because it was trading at a discount to its net cash and liquidation values, although there was no obvious catalyst. Management appeared to be considering a “strategic transaction” of some kind, which might have included an “acquisition or some other combination.” I think a better use of the cash on the balance sheet is a share buy-back or a dividend. Trinad Management had an activist position in the stock, but had been selling at the time I opened the position and only one stockholder owned more than 5% of the stock. The stock is up 40.3% since I opened the position to close yesterday at $2.00, giving the company a market capitalization of $15.9M. Following my review of the most recent 10K, I’ve increased my estimate of FORD’s liquidation value to around $20.3M or $2.56 per share.

The value proposition updated

FORD continues to face difficult trading conditions, writing in the most recent 10K:

Trends and Economic Environment

We believe that the poor economy, high unemployment, tight credit markets, and heightened uncertainty in financial markets during the past two years have adversely impacted discretionary consumer spending, including spending on the types of electronic devices that are accessorized by our products. In response to the economic recession certain of our major diabetic case customers have significantly reduced their sales forecasts to us for blood glucose diagnostic kits, with which our products are packaged in box, therefore implying reduced sales revenues from these customers in future periods. We expect this challenging business environment to continue in the near term.

Our response to current conditions has been to cut operating expenses and reduce headcount; and we have attempted to limit increases in operating expenses except where we think increases are critical to potential future growth.

In response to increasing customer and sales concentration, we have focused marketing efforts on expanding our customer base. These efforts are meeting with some preliminary success, although the degree of success will not become apparent until we are deeper into Fiscal 2010. We have received small, initial orders from first time customers. The key question in Fiscal 2010 will be whether our overall net sales and net profit will primarily reflect revenue contribution from new customers or the decline in revenues from existing customers that have indicated reduced order flow in Fiscal 2010. See Part I, Item IA. of this Annual Report, “Risk Factors”, including “We have announced our intention to diversify our business by means of acquisition or other business combination.”

The company had another quarter that was better than the preceding one, generating positive cash from operating activities of around $0.35M (the “Book Value” column shows the assets as they are carried in the financial statements, and the “Liquidating Value” column shows our estimate of the value of the assets in a liquidation):

Summary balance sheet adjustments

I’ve made the following adjustments to the balance sheet estimates (included in the valuation above):

  • Cash burn: I’ve got no real idea about FORD’s prospects. It seems to have stopped burning cash over the last quarter and actually generated $0.35M. If we assume, as management has, that the company will face a tough operating environment over the next 12 months, I estimate that the company will generate no cash over that period.
  • Off-balance sheet arrangements: According to FORD’s most recent 10Q, it has no off-balance sheet arrangements.
  • Contractual obligations: FORD’s contractual obligations are minimal, totalling $0.8M.

Possible catalysts

FORD’s President and Acting Chairman, Mr. Doug Sabra, said in the letter to FORD shareholders accompanying the notice of annual shareholders’ meeting, that in 2008 “management began to implement operational and strategic initiatives in order to put [FORD]’s business on a stronger, more sustainable footing. …  This past August we retained an outside consultant to assist us in vetting possible partners for a strategic transaction.” It seems that the “strategic transaction” might include a “possible acquisition or other combination that makes sense in the context of [FORD’s] existing business, without jeopardizing the strong financial position that we have worked so hard to build.” My vast preference is for a sale of the company, buyback, special dividend or return of capital over an acquisition. Rather than spend the cash on their balance sheet, they should focus on the work on their desk and pay a big dividend.

Any sale transaction will require the consent of FORD’s board. While it has a free float of around 92%, the company’s so-called “Anti-takeover Provisions” authorize the board to issue up to 4M shares of “blank check” preferred stock. From the 10K:

Our Board of Directors is authorized to issue up to 4,000,000 shares of “blank check” preferred stock. Our Board of Directors has the authority, without shareholder approval, to issue such preferred stock in one or more series and to fix the relative rights and preferences thereof including their redemption, dividend and conversion rights. Our ability to issue the authorized but unissued shares of preferred stock could be used to impede takeovers of our company. Under certain circumstance, the issuance of the preferred stock could make it more difficult for a third party to gain control of Forward, discourage bids for the common stock at a premium, or otherwise adversely affect the market price of our common stock. In addition, our certificate of incorporation requires the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the shares outstanding to approve a business combination such as a merger or sale of all or substantially all assets. Such provision and blank check preferred stock may discourage attempts to acquire Forward. Applicable laws that impose restrictions on, or regulate the manner of, a takeover attempt may also have the effect of deterring any such transaction. We are not aware of any attempt to acquire Forward.

Conclusion

FORD is still trading at a substantial discount to its liquidation and net cash values. The risk to this position is management spraying the cash away on an acquisition. A far better use of the company’s cash is a buyback, special dividend or return of capital. Another concern is Trinad Management exiting its activist position in the stock. Those concerns aside, I’m going to maintain the position because it still looks cheap at a discount to net cash.

[Full Disclosure:  We have a holding in FORD. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only. Do your own research before investing in any security.]

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CoSine Communications Inc (OTC:COSN) has released its 10Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2009.

We’ve been following COSN (see Greenbackd’s COSN post archive) because it is a cash box controlled by activist investor Steel Partners. Steel Partners own 47.5% of the stock and sits on the board. The stock is up 11.4% since our initial post to close Friday at $1.95. I initially estimated the net cash value to be around $22.2M or $2.20 per share. After reviewing the 10Q I’ve slightly reduced it in line with the ~$0.3M cash burn for the last two quarters to $21.9M or $2.17 per share. The net cash value has remained relatively stable through 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. COSN presents an opportunity to invest alongside Steel Partners at a discount to net cash in a company with substantial NOLs.

The value proposition updated

Little has changed over the last two quarters. The valuation on COSN remains straight-forward: It has around $22.7m in cash and short-term investments, $0.2M in liabilities and 10.1M shares outstanding. I’ve set out the valuation below in the usual manner (the “Book Value” column shows the assets as they are carried in the financial statements, and the “Liquidating Value” column shows our estimate of the value of the assets in a liquidation):

COSN Summary 2009 09 30

Balance sheet adjustments

I’ve made the following adjustments to the balance sheet estimates above:

  • Cash burn: The company used $0.58M in cash in the last three quarters, which we’ve annualized to $0.6M.
  • Off-balance sheet arrangements and contractual obligations: According to COSN’s 10Q, it has no off-balance sheet arrangements.

NOLS

A quick primer on net operating loss carry-forwards (“NOLs”) from the most 2009 10K:

NOLs may be carried forward to offset federal and state taxable income in future years and eliminate income taxes otherwise payable on such taxable income, subject to certain adjustments. Based on current federal corporate income tax rates, our NOLs and other carry-forwards could provide a benefit to us, if fully utilized, of significant future tax savings. However, our ability to use these tax benefits in future years will depend upon the amount of our otherwise taxable income. If we do not have sufficient taxable income in future years to use the tax benefits before they expire, we will lose the benefit of these NOLs permanently. Consequently, our ability to use the tax benefits associated with our substantial NOLs will depend significantly on our success in identifying suitable acquisition candidates, and once identified, successfully consummating an acquisition of these candidates.

Additionally, if we underwent an ownership change, the NOLs would be subject to an annual limit on the amount of the taxable income that may be offset by our NOLs generated prior to the ownership change. If an ownership change were to occur, we may be unable to use a significant portion of our NOLs to offset taxable income. In general, an ownership change occurs when, as of any testing date, the aggregate of the increase in percentage points is more than 50 percentage points of the total amount of a corporation’s stock owned by “5-percent stockholders,” within the meaning of the NOLs limitations, whose percentage ownership of the stock has increased as of such date over the lowest percentage of the stock owned by each such “5-percent stockholder” at any time during the three-year period preceding such date. In general, persons who own 5% or more of a corporation’s stock are “5-percent stockholders,” and all other persons who own less than 5% of a corporation’s stock are treated, together, as a single, public group “5-percent stockholder,” regardless of whether they own an aggregate of 5% of a corporation’s stock.

The amount of NOLs that we have claimed has not been audited or otherwise validated by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”). The IRS could challenge our calculation of the amount of our NOLs or our determinations as to when a prior change in ownership occurred and other provisions of the Internal Revenue Code may limit our ability to carry forward our NOLs to offset taxable income in future years. If the IRS was successful with respect to any such challenge, the potential tax benefit of the NOLs to us could be substantially reduced.

According to the 10K, as of December 31, 2008, COSN had federal NOLs of approximately $353M, which begin to expire in 2018 if not utilized and state NOLs of approximately $213M, which will begin to expire in 2009 if not utilized. The NOLs have a substantial value as a tax shield should COSN acquire a business with taxable earnings, but assessing that value is beyond us.

Catalyst

Steel Partners’ most recent 13D filing sets out its 47.5% holding. Steel Partners’ strategy is to use COSN’s cash to acquire a business with taxable earnings that can be offset by the NOLs. From the 10Q:

Redeployment Strategy and Liquidity

In July 2005, after a comprehensive review of strategic alternatives, our board of directors approved a strategy to redeploy our existing resources to identify and acquire one or more new business operations with existing or prospective taxable earnings that can be offset by use of our NOLs.

Ordinarly, I would prefer a return of cash to the acquisition of a business. This situation is different from the usual case because Steel Partners’ business is investment, and so I think the risk that they might make a bad investment is low. That said, there’s no assurance that they will find a suitable candidate, or if they do, that COSN will be able to use the NOLs.

Conclusion

COSN initially presented an opportunity to invest alongside Steel Partners at a 26% discount to net cash in a company with substantial NOLs. With the increase in the stock price the discount to its net cash position has narrowed to around 11%. I’m maintaining the position in the Greenbackd Portfolio.

[Full Disclosure:  We do not have a holding in COSN. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only. Do your own research before investing in any security.]

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Forward Industries Inc (NASDAQ:FORD) has fired its investment and engaged another. It looks like FORD is intent on spending the cash on its balance sheet, which is a shame. Rather than make an acquisition, they should focus on the work on their desk and pay a big dividend. There’s a half chance that the bank could suggest a sale of the company, but that seems unlikely. I can’t believe there are no activists out there willing to take on this company. It’s 40% off its 52-week high. It’s net cash. There are no big holders. Management’s not doing a bad job, but an acquisition is a ridiculous idea. This is an instance of a management trying to plow a dollar back into the business and turn it into fifty cents. I could use that dollar more profitably. Then again, I’d probably just spend it on pennywhistles and moonpies.

We started following FORD (see our post archive here) because it was trading at a discount to its net cash and liquidation values, although there was no obvious catalyst. Management appeared to be considering a “strategic transaction” of some kind, which might have included an “acquisition or some other combination.” Trinad Management had an activist position in the stock, but had been selling at the time we opened the position and only one stockholder owned more than 5% of the stock. The stock is up 36.8% since we opened the position to close yesterday at $1.97, giving the company a market capitalization of $13.4M. Following our review of the most recent 10Q, we’ve estimate the liquidation value to $19.5M or $2.47 per share.

Here’s a link to the announcement (it’s just a marketing announcement by the bank so I’m not going to repost it).

FORD is trading at a substantial discount to its liquidation and net cash values. The risk to this position is management spraying the cash away on an acquisition. A far better use of the company’s cash is a buyback, special dividend or return of capital. Another concern is Trinad Management exiting its activist position in the stock. Those concerns aside, I’m going to maintain the position because it still looks cheap at a discount to net cash.

[Full Disclosure:  We have a holding in FORD. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only. Do your own research before investing in any security.]

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Disgruntled VaxGen Inc (OTC:VXGN) shareholders have initiated a class action against the board of VXGN over possible breaches of fiduciary duty in the sale to OXGN. The board certainly deserves the suit because of the appalling deal struck with OXGN. Priced at a discount to VXGN’s net cash and liquidation values, and payment in the watered scrip of a speculative biotech play, it’s a real dud for VXGN shareholders (see our more detailed take on the terms of the VXGN / OXGN deal). A successful outcome in any litigation may be a Pyrrhic victory for participating VXGN shareholders. As we understand it, VXGN’s board is indemnified out of VXGN’s assets and so as any damages award will return to VXGN plaintiffs VXGN’s assets less legal fees and the break fee. Perhaps someone more knowledgable can illuminate the situation for us in the comments. It’s also possible that the merger will not survive the shareholder vote. As reader bellamyj notes, in November 2007 VXGN announced another disastrous merger with Raven Biotechnologies. Over the next few days VXGN stock fell almost 50% and the merger was terminated the day before the special meeting, apparently due to shareholder opposition. Perhaps that will happen again. If it does, OXGN will still tear out ~$2.5M from VXGN, but it may be a better outcome than the deal on the table.

About our VXGN position

We’ve been following VXGN (see our post archive here) because it is trading at a substantial discount to its net cash position, has ended its cash-burning product development activities and is “seeking to maximize the value of its remaining assets through a strategic transaction or series of strategic transactions.” Management has said that, if the company is unable to identify and complete an alternate strategic transaction, it proposes to liquidate. One concern of ours has been a lawsuit against VXGN by its landlords, in which they sought $22.4M. That lawsuit was dismissed in May, so the path for VXGN to liquidate has now hopefully cleared. The board has, however, been dragging its feet on the liquidation. Given their relatively high compensation and almost non-existent shareholding, it’s not hard to see why.

There are two competing alternate proxy slates seeking nomination to the board of VXGN, Value Investors for Change and the VaxGen Full Value Committee. Value Investors for Change, led by Spencer Capital, filed preliminary proxy documents in August to remove the board. In the proxy documents, Value Investors for Change call out VXGN’s board on its “track record of failure and exorbitant cash compensation”:

VaxGen does not have any operations, other than preparing public reports. The Company has three employees, including the part-time principal executive officer and director, and four non-employee directors. Since the Company’s failed merger with Raven Biotechnologies, Inc. in March 2008, the Board has publicly disclosed that it would either pursue a strategic transaction or a series of strategic transactions or dissolve the Company. The Company has done neither. In the meantime, members of the Board have treated themselves to exorbitant cash compensation. Until July 2009, two non-employee members of the Board were paid over $300,000 per year in compensation. The principal executive officer will likely receive over $400,000 in cash compensation this year.

The VaxGen Full Value Committee comprising BA Value Investors’ Steven N. Bronson and ROI Capital Management’s Mark T. Boyer and Mitchell J. Soboleski, intends to replace the current board with directors who will focus on the following objectives:

1. Returning capital to [VXGN]’s shareholders, including an immediate distribution of $10,000,000 in cash;

2. Terminating [VXGN]’s lease with its landlord, Oyster Point Tech Center, LLC, and settling with the landlord the obligations of [VXGN] on the remaining lease payments;

3. Exploring ways to monetize [VXGN] as a “public shell,” including the utilization of [VXGN]’s Substantial Net Operating Losses; and

4. Protecting for the benefit of shareholders royalty payments receivable from the sale of [VXGN]’s intellectual property.

BA Value Investors had previously disclosed an activist holding and, in a June 12 letter to the board, called on VXGN to “act promptly to reduce the size of the board to three directors; reduce director compensation; change to a smaller audit firm; terminate the lease of its facilities; otherwise cut costs; make an immediate $10 million distribution to shareholders; make a subsequent distribution of substantially all the remaining cash after settling the lease termination; distribute any royalty income to shareholders; and explore ways to monetize the public company value of the Issuer and use of its net operating losses.”

VXGN is up 25.0% since we initiated the position. At its $0.60 close yesterday, it has a market capitalization of $22.5M. We last estimated the company’s liquidation value to be around $25.4M or $0.77 per share. VXGN has other potentially valuable assets, including a “state-of-the-art biopharmaceutical manufacturing facility with a 1,000-liter bioreactor that can be used to make cell culture or microbial biologic products” and rights to specified percentages of future net sales relating to its anthrax vaccine product candidate and related technology. The authors of a letter sent to the board on July 14 of this year adjudge VXGN’s liquidation value to be significantly higher at $2.12 per share:

Excluding the lease obligations, the net financial assets alone of $37.2 million equate to $1.12 per share. The EBS royalties (assuming a 6% royalty rate and a $500 million contract as contemplated by NIH/HHS and EBS) of $30 million and milestones of $6 million total $36 million of potential additional future value (based clearly on assumptions, none of which are assured), or $1.09 per share. Adding $1.12 and $1.09 equals $2.21 per share.

Here’s the press release announcing the litigation:

Levi & Korsinsky, LLP Investigates Possible Breach of Fiduciary Duty by the Board of VaxGen, Inc. – VXGN.OB

Levi & Korsinsky is investigating the Board of Directors of VaxGen, Inc. (“VaxGen” or the “Company”) (OTC BB: VXGN) for possible breaches of fiduciary duty and other violations of state law in connection with their attempt to sell the Company to Oxigene Inc. (“Oxigene”) (NasdaqGM: OXGN). Under the terms of the transaction, VaxGen shareholders will receive 0.4719 Oxigene shares for every VaxGen share they own which, based on the $1.42 per share closing price of Oxigene stock on October 14, 2009, the day prior to the announcement, is valued at approximately $0.67. In addition, Oxigene is to place approximately 8.5 million common shares in escrow to be released to VaxGen shareholders contingent upon the occurrence of certain events over the two-year period following the closing.

The investigation concerns whether the VaxGen Board of Directors breached their fiduciary duties to VaxGen shareholders given that (i) the Company has approximately $1.07 per share in cash with no debt; (ii) the Company has a book value of approximately $0.99 a share; (iii) at least one analyst has set a $2.00 price target for VaxGen stock; and (iv) and the Board agreed to a non-solicitation provision and a termination fee up to $1,425,000 that will all but ensure that no superior offers will ever be forthcoming.

If you own common stock in VaxGen and wish to obtain additional information, please contact us at the number listed below or visit http://www.zlk.com/vxgn1.html.

Levi & Korsinsky has expertise in prosecuting investor securities litigation and extensive experience in actions involving financial fraud and represents investors throughout the nation, concentrating its practice in securities and shareholder litigation.

Hat tip JM.

[Full Disclosure:  We have a holding in VXGN. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only. Do your own research before investing in any security.]

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It’s been a big week for VaxGen Inc (OTC:VXGN). On Tuesday last week the “VaxGen Full Value Committee” nominated five director candidates to the board. Then on Thursday BizJournals.com reported that VXGN’s “failed AIDS vaccine” was “successful in a new trial that combined it with another failed vaccine in reducing the risk of becoming infected with HIV.” The stock ran on the news, prompting VXGN to clarify yesterday that it “retains an option to obtain the exclusive right to manufacture, commercialize, and further develop the HIV vaccine candidates in the U.S., Europe, Japan and other countries that are members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development” but “has no rights or obligations to manufacture or develop the vaccine candidates unless and until it exercises this option.”

We’ve been following VXGN (see our post archive here) because it is trading at a substantial discount to its net cash position, has ended its cash-burning product development activities and is “seeking to maximize the value of its remaining assets through a strategic transaction or series of strategic transactions.” Management has said that, if the company is unable to identify and complete an alternate strategic transaction, it proposes to liquidate. One concern of ours has been a lawsuit against VXGN by its landlords, in which they sought $22.4M. That lawsuit was dismissed in May, so the path for VXGN to liquidate has now hopefully cleared. The board has, however, been dragging its feet on the liquidation. Given their relatively high compensation and almost non-existent shareholding, it’s not hard to see why.

BA Value Investors had previously disclosed an activist holding and, in a June 12 letter to the board, called on VXGN to “act promptly to reduce the size of the board to three directors; reduce director compensation; change to a smaller audit firm; terminate the lease of its facilities; otherwise cut costs; make an immediate $10 million distribution to shareholders; make a subsequent distribution of substantially all the remaining cash after settling the lease termination; distribute any royalty income to shareholders; and explore ways to monetize the public company value of the Issuer and use of its net operating losses.”

Another group led by Spencer Capital and styling itself “Value Investors for Change” has also filed preliminary proxy documents to remove the board. In the proxy documents, Value Investors for Change call out VXGN’s board on its “track record of failure and exorbitant cash compensation”:

VaxGen does not have any operations, other than preparing public reports. The Company has three employees, including the part-time principal executive officer and director, and four non-employee directors. Since the Company’s failed merger with Raven Biotechnologies, Inc. in March 2008, the Board has publicly disclosed that it would either pursue a strategic transaction or a series of strategic transactions or dissolve the Company. The Company has done neither. In the meantime, members of the Board have treated themselves to exorbitant cash compensation. Until July 2009, two non-employee members of the Board were paid over $300,000 per year in compensation. The principal executive officer will likely receive over $400,000 in cash compensation this year.

VXGN is up 41.7% since we initiated the position. At its $0.68 close yesterday, it has a market capitalization of $22.5M. We last estimated the company’s liquidation value to be around $25.4M or $0.77 per share. VXGN has other potentially valuable assets, including a “state-of-the-art biopharmaceutical manufacturing facility with a 1,000-liter bioreactor that can be used to make cell culture or microbial biologic products” and rights to specified percentages of future net sales relating to its anthrax vaccine product candidate and related technology. The authors of a letter sent to the board on July 14 of this year adjudge VXGN’s liquidation value to be significantly higher at $2.12 per share:

Excluding the lease obligations, the net financial assets alone of $37.2 million equate to $1.12 per share. The EBS royalties (assuming a 6% royalty rate and a $500 million contract as contemplated by NIH/HHS and EBS) of $30 million and milestones of $6 million total $36 million of potential additional future value (based clearly on assumptions, none of which are assured), or $1.09 per share. Adding $1.12 and $1.09 equals $2.21 per share.

The entry of the VaxGen Full Value Committee into the proxy contest will certainly make the next meeting an interesting spectacle, and, with any luck, we will see a liquidation of VXGN soon, either at the hands of the present board, by Value Investors for Change or the VaxGen Full Value Committee. We believe VXGN’s rights to the AIDS vaccine should make little difference to the outcome of the proxy contest.

The press release announcing the nomination is set out below:

Contact: Steven N. Bronson

Telephone: 561-362-4199 ext 4

The VaxGen Full Value Committee Nominates Five Highly

Qualified Candidates to Replace Current VaxGen Board

Boca Raton, FL, September 22, 2009 –(Business Wire)–The VaxGen Full Value Committee (Committee) today reported that, on September 17th, it delivered to VaxGen Inc. (VXGN.OB) a solicitation notice for the nomination of five highly qualified director candidates to reconstitute the board of VaxGen at the upcoming 2009 annual meeting.

Members of the Committee, which currently consist of BA Value Investors LLC, a private investment firm founded by Steven N. Bronson, and ROI Capital Management, a registered investment advisor managed by Mark T. Boyer and Mitchell J. Soboleski, collectively own 13.7% of the outstanding common stock of VaxGen. The Committee expects that, if elected, its nominees will work to–

1. Return capital to VaxGen’s shareholders, including an immediate distribution of $10,000,000 in cash;

2. Negotiate a termination of VaxGen’s real property lease, which is out of all proportion to the Company’s needs and constitutes a serious drain on the Company’s resources;

3. Explore ways to monetize VaxGen’s value as a “public shell,” including the utilization of the Company’s substantial net operating losses; and

4. Protect for the benefit of shareholders royalty payments receivable as a result of the sale of VaxGen’s intellectual property.

The VaxGen Full Value Committee is dedicated to maximizing value for all shareholders. After the Company’s failed merger with Raven Biotechnologies, Inc. in March 2008, the Board publicly disclosed that it would either pursue one or more strategic transactions or, failing to do so, dissolve the Company. The Company has done neither. Instead, members of the VaxGen board of directors have been paid compensation in amounts that the Committee believes are exorbitant, considering that the Company has no operations and is continuing to burn cash and cumulate losses. Since 2008, over $300,000 annually was paid to each of two non-employee directors serving on the strategic transaction committee of the Company’s board. It was only after Mr. Bronson’s letter to the board in June 2009 that the Company announced that it was discontinuing the compensation to the two outside board members for service on this committee. The Committee is committed to eliminating this type of board conduct.

Certain information concerning the Committee’s nominees follows.

Steven N. Bronson. Mr. Bronson, age 44, is the President of Catalyst Financial LLC, a privately held full service investment banking firm, and has held that position since September 1998. Mr. Bronson also serves as an officer and director of 4net Software, Inc., Ridgefield Acquisition Corp. and BKF Capital Group, Inc.David E. Castaneda. Mr. Castaneda, age 45, is the President of the Market Development Consulting Group, Inc. (MDC Group), a management consulting firm he founded in 1991 to offer expertise in corporate finance, corporate development and investor relations. From January 2004 to October 2007, he was Vice President Investor Relations for Cheniere Energy, Inc.

Leonard Hagan. Mr. Hagan, age 56, is a partner at Hagan & Burns CPA’s, PC in New York and has held that position since 2004. Mr. Hagan is also a director of 4net Software, Inc., BKF Capital Group, Inc. and Ridgefield Acquisition Corp.

Mark Boyer. Mr. Boyer, age 52, has been the President and a Director of ROI Capital Management, an investment advisor, since July 1992.

E. Steven zum Tobel. Mr. zum Tobel, age 42, is the founder, director and shareholder of First American Capital & Trading Corporation, a wholesale institutional specialty brokerage firm. He has been with First American Capital since 2002.

The press release clarifying the rights to the HIV vaccine is set out below:

VaxGen Congratulates HIV Prime-Boost Vaccine Study Collaborators and Clarifies Commercial Rights

South San Francisco, California — September 25, 2009 — VaxGen, Inc. today congratulated the Thai Ministry of Health, the U.S. Army, Sanofi Pasteur and VaxGen’s licensee Global Solutions for Infectious Disease (GSID) on the encouraging results demonstrated in the RV144 clinical trial. The top-line results of the placebo controlled study in 16,000 Thai volunteers were released today, and according to the sponsors of the trial, demonstrated that the vaccine regimen reduced HIV infection in a community-based population by 31.2% compared with placebo. The full results of the clinical trial have not yet been released by the study sponsors. The vaccine regimen tested in the study combined a priming vaccine developed by Sanofi Pasteur (ALVAC® HIV vCP1521) and GSID’s boosting vaccine (AIDSVAX® B/E).

In January 2006, VaxGen granted to GSID a worldwide license to research, develop, manufacture, register, use, market, import, offer for sale, and sell its HIV vaccine candidates, including the AIDSVAX B/E vaccine. VaxGen retains an option to obtain the exclusive right to manufacture, commercialize, and further develop the HIV vaccine candidates in the U.S., Europe, Japan and other countries that are members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. This option is, however, subject to an option held by Genentech, Inc. to commercialize HIV vaccines in North America. VaxGen’s option may be exercised during a period immediately following the filing of an application for marketing approval (i.e., a Biologics License Application with the U.S. FDA, or equivalent). VaxGen has no rights or obligations to manufacture or develop the vaccine candidates unless and until it exercises this option. If VaxGen exercises its option, it will owe royalties to GSID and be required to reimburse 50% of GSID’s development expenses. If VaxGen does not exercise its option, it will be entitled to receive royalties for sales in the above-mentioned countries. VaxGen is not entitled to royalties on sales in developing countries as defined in the agreement with GSID. VaxGen believes it will not receive any payments under the agreement, if ever, for many years.

Substantial additional research and clinical development will be required to clarify the public health benefits of this outcome. The vaccine combination tested in Thailand was developed based on the strains of HIV that circulate in that country. Separate versions of the vaccine may have to be developed for HIV strains that predominate elsewhere in the world, including Europe and North America. “We are very pleased that this clinical study has yielded encouraging results, and may provide significant new scientific insights into the future development of effective HIV vaccines,” said James P. Panek, VaxGen President. “However, we believe potential commercialization of such a vaccine remains many years away.”

[Full Disclosure:  We have a holding in VXGN. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only. Do your own research before investing in any security.]


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Cadus Corporation (OTC:KDUS) is an interesting play, but not without hairs on it. First, the good news: It’s trading at a discount to net cash with Carl Icahn disclosing an activist holding in 2002, and Moab Capital Partners disclosing an activist holding more recently. At its $1.51 close yesterday, the company has a market capitalization of $19.9M. The valuation is straight-forward. We estimate the net cash value to be around $20.6M or $1.57 per share and the liquidation value to be around $23.2M or $1.77 per share. The liquidation value excludes the potential value of federal and New York State and City net operating loss carry-forwards. It’s not a huge upside but it’s reasonably certain, and we think that’s a good thing in this market. The problem with the position is the catalyst. It’s a relatively tiny position for Icahn, so he’s got no real incentive to do anything with it. He’s been in the position since 2002, so he’s clearly in no hurry. That said, he’s not ignoring the position. He last updated his 13D filing in March this year, disclosing an increased 40% stake. He’s also got Moab Capital Partners to contend with. Moab holds 9.8% of the stock and says that it “has had good interaction with the CEO of Cadus, David Blitz, and feels comfortable that he will structure a transaction with an operating business that will generate significant long-term value for Cadus holders.” KDUS could end up being a classic value trap, but we think it’s worth a look at a discount to net cash, and two interested shareholders.

About KDUS

From the most recent 10Q:

The Company was incorporated in 1992 and until July 30, 1999, devoted substantially all of its resources to the development and application of novel yeast-based and other drug discovery technologies. On July 30, 1999, the Company sold its drug discovery assets and ceased its internal drug discovery operations and research efforts for collaborative partners.

At June 30, 2009, the Company had an accumulated deficit of approximately $34.9 million. The Company’s losses have resulted principally from costs incurred in connection with its research and development activities and from general and administrative costs associated with the Company’s operations. These costs have exceeded the Company’s revenues and interest income. As a result of the sale of its drug discovery assets and the cessation of its internal drug discovery operations and research efforts for collaborative partners, the Company ceased to have research funding revenues and substantially reduced its operating expenses. The Company expects to generate revenues in the future only if it is able to license its technologies.

The value proposition

KDUS is a relatively simple value proposition. It’s $21M of cash, and $3.1M in Bank of America Columbia Strategic Cash Portfolio (more on this below) against total liabilities of around $0.03M (that’s ~$27,000). We’ve set out the valuation below in the usual manner (the “Book Value” column shows the assets as they are carried in the financial statements, and the “Liquidating Value” column shows our estimate of the value of the assets in a liquidation):

KDUS Summary

Bank of America Columbia Strategic Cash Portfolio

We are not treating the Bank of America Columbia Strategic Cash Portfolio as cash. The asset has some issues, best described by this passage from the 10Q:

On December 10, 2007, the Fund notified the Company that conditions in the short-term credit markets had created a broad based perception of risk in non subprime asset-backed securities causing illiquidity across the market which led to extreme pricing pressure in those securities. The Fund also notified the Company that it is primarily invested in such securities, that it will begin an orderly liquidation of such securities, that unitholders would no longer be able to redeem their units in the Fund and that the Fund would redeem its units as it liquidated its investments. The Fund also began to value its securities based on market value rather than amortized value for purposes of determining net asset value per unit. The Fund has continued to pay interest monthly. The Company reclassified its investment in the Fund from cash equivalents to short-term investments. Through December 31, 2008, the Fund redeemed 19,445,459 units held by the Company for $18,787,142, which redemption was $658,317 in the aggregate less than the cost of such units. From January 1, 2009 to June 30, 2009, the Fund has redeemed an additional 2,314,849 units in the Fund for $1,934,798 which redemption was $380,051 in the aggregate less than the original $2,314,849 cost of such units. At June 30, 2009, the Company still owned 3,793,032 units in the Fund which was recorded on the balance sheet at $3,135,321. Such 3,793,032 units had a net asset value of $3,306,385 at June 30, 2009. The Fund has advised the Company that the balance or most of the balance, of the Company’s investment in the Fund will be redeemed by December 31, 2009. However, there can be no assurance as to when the redemption will take place or as to the net asset value at which the Company’s investment in the Fund will be redeemed.

We’ve applied a 20% discount to the Strategic Cash Portfolio, which is an additional discount to that applied by KDUS. This may be too conservative, but that is the only way that we feel comfortable.

The catalyst

Carl Icahn filed an amended 13D notice on March 12 this year, indicating an increased 40% holding in KDUS. Moab Capital Partners also holds around 9.8% of KDUS. Said Moab of its KDUS position in the August 16, 2007 13D:

The Reporting Persons have purchased the Shares in open market transactions because in their opinion, the market has not given full appreciation to Cadus’ cash balance, net operating loss carry-forwards and future prospects. Based on publically available information, as of 8/16/07, the company currently holds cash, equivalents and investments in marketable securities of $25.4 million and has significant federal and New York State and City net operating loss carry-forwards. The current market capitalization stands at $23.1 million, a 9% discount to the cash and investments on Cadus’ balance sheet. Moab feels the loss carry-forwards should also be ascribed market value. Cadus is cash flow positive and the share count has not increased in over five years. Moab has had good interaction with the CEO of Cadus, David Blitz, and feels comfortable that he will structure a transaction with an operating business that will generate significant long-term value for Cadus holders.

Moab’s purchase prices – between $1.86 and $1.76 – are higher than the current trading price of KDUS.

Despite these promising sentiments, a catalyst in KDUS is probably not imminent. We believe the position will require some patience for the following reasons: First, KDUS is controlled by Icahn and represents a very small part of his empire. He’s got no real immediate impetus to unlock the value. The play is probably Icahn selling his stake to another investor looking for a shell, or Icahn vending into KDUS some other business. You’d have to be brave / insane / a little of both to buy from Icahn usually, and doubly so in this instance given that he’s got no reason to sell. Second, it’s illiquid. Average volume is close to nada: 900 shares were traded on Friday and 6,500 were traded on Thursday. Even a small retail investor could make the entire market for a day or so. Finally, KDUS is a fairly well known position in the industry. It’s viewed as a stock that has been stagnant for years and unlikely to go anywhere because Icahn is too rich to care. We’ve heard that investing in KDUS is a “right of passage for would-be shell buyers.” Consider yourself warned.

Conclusion

Despite the foregoing misgivings, we’re reasonably comfortable with a position in KDUS for several reasons:

  1. The value. We’re primarily attracted to KDUS’s cash and liquidation values. While it’s not a huge upside from here, it’s downside is very limited. With slightly higher interest rates, KDUS will also likely return to cash flow positive territory.
  2. While Icahn is obviously not seeking an immediate resolution of the position, he controls an asset with a value not yet fully recognised by the market. If a worthwhile transaction materializes like Marley’s ghost before Scrooge’s eyes, we’re prepared to bet that Scrooge will buy us the biggest turkey in the poulterer’s shop. But it won’t happen this Christmas.

KDUS won’t ever be a 10 bagger, or even a double, but it’s got 20 – 30% in it. In an overheated market, that’s good enough for us. For these reasons, we’re adding it to the Greenbackd Portfolio.

KDUS closed Friday at $1.51.

The S&P500 closed Friday at 1,044.38.

[Full Disclosure:  We have a holding in KDUS. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only. Do your own research before investing in any security.]

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