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Posts Tagged ‘Avigen Inc (NASDAQ:AVGN)’

Although we closed our position in Avigen Inc (NASDAQ:AVGN) earlier this week, we’re keeping a watching brief on the stock. AVGN has now filed with the SEC the terms of the deal with MediciNova Inc (NASDAQ:MNOV), and they’re not as bad as the earlier report seemed to suggest. The deal has, however, attracted the ire of The Pennsylvania Funds, an AVGN shareholder, who has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all AVGN stockholders. The stock closed yesterday at $1.28, about $0.01 under our exit price. The terms of deal provide some downside protection and some upside optionality, and so are worth considering in some more detail, although probably not enough of either to persuade us to re-enter the stock. If the lawsuit gains traction and pushes the stock price down, however, AVGN might become attractive again.

About AVGN

We started following AVGN in December last year (see archived posts here) because it was a net cash stock and specialist biotechnology investor Biotechnology Value Fund (BVF) was pushing it to liquidate and return its cash to shareholders. Despite BVF’s failure to remove the board, we continued to maintain our position in AVGN because BVF won a number of important concessions from the board that made AVGN a much more attractive stock than it was when we started following it. We continuted to hold on when AVGN announced that it was back in negotiations with MediciNova, Inc, but closed the position for a 98.5% gain when the initial terms of the deal were announced.

The terms of the deal

The downside protection

Under the terms of the merger agreement AVGN shareholders will have the right to elect to receive an amount currently estimated by AVGN’s board at $1.24 per share in either cash or secured convertible notes to be issued by MNOV. Approximately $1.19 of the consideration will be paid at the closing, and approximately $0.05 will be paid at June 30, 2010. Both payments are subject to certain potential adjustments. The first payment is subject to adjustment based on activities related to the liquidation or sale of certain assets of AVGN in connection with the winding down of its operations prior to closing. The second payment is subject to upward adjustment based on savings in estimated expenses through closing and receipt of certain payments post-closing as well as downward adjustment in the event that closing liabilities exceed estimated liabilities through closing.

The upside optionality

The secured convertible notes will be convertible on the final business day of each month into shares of MNOV common stock at a conversion price of $6.80 per share, which conversion price is based on the volume-weighted average price of MNOV’s common stock as quoted on Nasdaq and the Osaka Securities Exchange over the 20 trading days prior to signing of the merger agreement. The convertible notes will mature on the 18-month anniversary of the closing of the merger, and the indenture governing the notes will include customary events of default and anti-dilution adjustments. Note that the last time MNOV traded above $6.80 was two years ago in August 2007.

The joint press release announcing the terms of the deal is set out below:

MediciNova and Avigen Enter Into Definitive Agreement for Business Combination

SAN DIEGO, Calif., and ALAMEDA, Calif., August 21, 2009 — MediciNova, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company that is publicly traded on the Nasdaq Global Market (Nasdaq:MNOV) and the Hercules Market of the Osaka Securities Exchange (Code Number:4875) and Avigen, Inc. (Nasdaq:AVGN), a biopharmaceutical company, today announced that they have entered into a definitive merger agreement pursuant to which MediciNova’s wholly-owned subsidiary will merge with and into Avigen. Completion of the transaction will permit the combination of the companies’ broad neurological clinical development programs based on ibudilast (Avigen’s AV-411 and MediciNova’s MN-166).

Under the terms of the merger agreement, which has been approved by both companies’ boards of directors, Avigen shareholders will have the right to elect to receive an amount currently estimated at approximately $1.24 per share in either cash or secured convertible notes to be issued by MediciNova. Approximately $1.19 of this consideration will be paid at the closing, and approximately $0.05 will be paid at June 30, 2010. As set forth in the merger agreement, both payments are subject to certain potential adjustments. The first payment is subject to adjustment based on activities related to the liquidation or sale of certain assets of Avigen in connection with the winding down of its operations prior to closing. The second payment is subject to upward adjustment based on savings in estimated expenses through closing and receipt of certain payments post-closing as well as downward adjustment in the event that closing liabilities exceed estimated liabilities through closing.

The secured convertible notes will be convertible on the final business day of each month into shares of MediciNova common stock at a conversion price of $6.80 per share, which conversion price is based on the volume-weighted average price of MediciNova’s common stock as quoted on Nasdaq and the Osaka Securities Exchange over the 20 trading days prior to signing of the merger agreement. The convertible notes will mature on the 18-month anniversary of the closing of the merger, and the indenture governing the notes will include customary events of default and anti-dilution adjustments.

In addition, Avigen’s stockholders will be entitled to one Contingent Payment Right (“CPR”) that will entitle holders under certain circumstances to a pro rata portion of one or more of the following: (1) in the event the first milestone payment of $6.0 million, or approximately $0.20 per share, under Avigen’s 2005 assignment agreement with Genzyme Corporation (“Genzyme Agreement”) is achieved in the 20 months following closing, a cash payment of the proceeds (to the extent such cash is received by MediciNova in the 20 months following closing); (2) in the event the Parkinson’s product reverts to MediciNova under the Genzyme Agreement and is subsequently sold, licensed or otherwise transferred, 50% of the proceeds received in cash in the 20 months following closing; and (3) the amount of money remaining in the plan trust established under Avigen’s management transition plan following termination of such trust. In each case, the payments will be net of any related out-of-pocket costs, damages, fines, penalties and expenses incurred by MediciNova. The CPRs will not be transferable except in limited circumstances.

Yuichi Iwaki, M.D., Ph.D., MediciNova’s President and Chief Executive Officer, said, “We are excited about combining Avigen with MediciNova and believe that it presents a unique opportunity for shareholders of both companies, most notably, the ability to more fully take advantage of the opportunities that the ibudilast compound and analogs provide in a variety of indications and markets.”

“We believe the transaction reduces many of the uncertainties involved with dissolution and is in the best interests of our shareholders,” commented Andrew Sauter, Avigen’s Chief Executive Officer, President and Chief Financial Officer. “In addition, we believe that combining the two companies’ ibudilast programs will enhance the global development potential for the compound that could benefit patients with a range of neurological indications.”

The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2009 and is subject to approval of Avigen’s stockholders and approval of MediciNova’s stockholders as well as other customary closing conditions. In addition, the closing is conditioned on the receipt of certain releases from Avigen’s directors (other than John K.A. Prendergast), Kenneth Chahine, Kirk Johnson and Andrew A. Sauter.

RBC Capital Markets Corporation is acting as financial advisor to Avigen and Cooley Godward Kronish LLP is serving as its legal counsel. Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. Inc. (NYSE Amex: LTS) is acting as financial advisor to MediciNova, Euclidean Life Science Advisors is acting as its business advisor and Dechert LLP is serving as its legal counsel.

The AVGN press release disclosing the law suit is set out below:

On August 25, 2009, The Pennsylvania Funds filed a class action lawsuit in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Alameda, purportedly on behalf of the stockholders of Avigen, Inc., against Avigen and its directors, alleging that Avigen’s directors breached their fiduciary duties to the stockholders of Avigen in connection with the proposed acquisition of Avigen by MediciNova, Inc. The complaint seeks to enjoin the defendants from completing the acquisition as currently contemplated.

Avigen and its directors intend to take all appropriate actions to defend the suit.

It is possible that additional similar complaints may be filed in the future. If this does occur, Avigen does not intend to announce the filing of any similar complaints unless they contain allegations that are substantially distinct from those made in the pending action.

Conclusion

With the terms of the deal announced by AVGN, we’re still happy to be out of the stock. The downside protection is subject to various adjustments, and the upside is wholly dependent on the performance of MNOV’s stock over $6.80, which is higher than the stock has traded since 2007. That said, it’s worth watching to the see the effect of the class action on the stock price, because there is a price at which the stock again becomes attractive.

Hat tip GR.

[Full Disclosure: We do not have a holding in AVGN. 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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MediciNova Inc. (NASDAQ:MNOV) will acquire Avigen Inc (NASDAQ:AVGN) for $1.24 per share in cash or secured convertible notes. While the stock is trading at a slight premium to the bid, we’re taking the opportunity to exit. AVGN closed Friday at $1.29, which means we’re up 98.5% on an absolute basis. The S&P500 was at 816.21 when we opened the position, and closed Friday at 1,026.13, which means we’re up 72.7% on a relative basis.

Post mortem

We started following AVGN in December last year (see archived posts here) because it was a net cash stock and specialist biotechnology investor Biotechnology Value Fund (BVF) was pushing it to liquidate and return its cash to shareholders. Despite BVF’s failure to remove the board, we continued to maintain our position in AVGN because BVF won a number of important concessions from the board that made AVGN a much more attractive stock than it was when we started following it. We continuted to hold on when AVGN announced that it was back in negotiations with MediciNova, Inc. The consideration for the deal was announced as AVGN’s “net cash liquidation value plus $3 million” and “a contingent payment right for a specific product program milestone payment associated with Avigen’s Assignment Agreement with Genzyme Corporation, potentially subject to certain adjustments.” That seems tono longer be the case. The deal announced Friday calls for a payment of around $1.19 a share when the deal closes, with approximately $0.05 per share to be paid on June 30, 2010. This is a disappointing deal. AVGN has been sold for its net cash liquidation value plus $3M from MediciNova. We held on because we believed that there was a reasonable chance that AVGN could yield more than its then $1.34 share price when the “contingent payment right” capturing the near term payments from Genzyme was taken into account. MNOV has not provided AVGN shareholders with any value for AVGN’s AV411 assets and program.

Here is the press release announcing the sale (via MarketWatch):

MediciNova To Acquire Avigen For $1.24 a Share

William L. Watts

MarketWatch Pulse

LONDON — Biopharmaceutical firm MediciNova Inc. will acquire Avigen Inc. for $1.24 a share in cash or secured convertible notes, under an agreement announced Friday by the biopharmaceutical firms. Under the deal, around $1.19 a share will be paid when the deal closes, with approximately 5 cents a share to be paid on June 30, 2010. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter, pending the approval of Avigen and MediciNova stockholders and other considerations. The companies said the merger will allow them to combine their neurological clinical development programs based on ibudilast, an anti-inflammatory drug.

[Full Disclosure: We have a holding in AVGN. 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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Avigen Inc (NASDAQ:AVGN) has filed its 10Q for the period ended June 30, 2009.

One interesting aspect of the 10Q is the cost the company attributes to responding to the proxy fight and hostile tender offer:

Operating Activities. Net cash used in operating activities was $8.2 million during the six months ended June 30, 2009. Net cash used in operating activities during this period was primarily used to fund costs associated with our response to a proxy fight and hostile tender offer, and winding down clinical research and development activities, including non-clinical studies and clinical trials performed by third parties.

$8.2M? That’s $0.27 per share! Granted, some of it went to other activities, but presumably costs associated with “response to a proxy fight and hostile tender offer” was the larger portion of the $8.2M and that’s why it was listed first. It’s galling what directors are allowed to spend fighting off shareholders.

We started following AVGN in December last year (see archived posts here) because it was a net cash stock and specialist biotechnology investor Biotechnology Value Fund (BVF) was pushing it to liquidate and return its cash to shareholders. Despite BVF’s failure to remove the board, we continued to maintain our position in AVGN because BVF won a number of important concessions from the board that made AVGN a much more attractive stock than it was when we started following it. AVGN is now back in negotiations with MediciNova, Inc. regarding a proposed acquisition by MediciNova. The consideration for the deal is AVGN’s “net cash liquidation value plus $3 million” and “a contingent payment right for a specific product program milestone payment associated with Avigen’s Assignment Agreement with Genzyme Corporation, potentially subject to certain adjustments.” The stock price reflects this: AVGN closed yesterday at $1.34, up 106.2% from our $0.65 purchase price. We last estimated the net cash liquidation value at around $34M or $1.14 per share. We’ve now updated our estimate to $35M or $1.17 per share. Including the $3M from MediciNova would increase that value to around $38M or $1.27per share. We believe that there is a reasonable chance that AVGN will yield more than its current $1.34 share price when the “contingent payment right” capturing the near term payments from Genzyme is taken into account. AVGN shareholders also have an option-like exposure to any value in AVGN’s AV411 assets and program, although we cannot estimate the value of this with any certainty.

The value proposition updated

Set out below is our adjusted balance sheet for AVGN (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):

AVGN Summary 2009 6 30

Conclusion

While BVF’s slate was unsuccessful at the special meeting, AVGN’s board has developed its own plan of liquidation, which should put a floor on AVGN’s stock at around its net cash value of $34M or $1.14 per share less wind down costs. There exists a good chance that AVGN will yield considerably more than its net cash value. The net cash estimate does not take into account AVGN’s AV411 assets and program or near term payments from Genzyme. With the downside protected, and a good chance at some upside from here, we think AVGN still represents good value, and we’re going to maintain our position accordingly.

[Full Disclosure: We have a holding in AVGN. 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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Avigen Inc (NASDAQ:AVGN) is back in negotiations with MediciNova, Inc. regarding a proposed acquisition of AVGN by MediciNova. The consideration for the deal is AVGN’s “net cash liquidation value plus $3 million” and “a contingent payment right for a specific product program milestone payment associated with Avigen’s Assignment Agreement with Genzyme Corporation, potentially subject to certain adjustments.”

We started following AVGN in December last year (see archived posts here) because it was a net cash stock and specialist biotechnology investor Biotechnology Value Fund (BVF) was pushing it to liquidate and return its cash to shareholders. Despite BVF’s failure to remove the board, we continued to maintain our position in AVGN because BVF won a number of important concessions from the board that made AVGN a much more attractive stock than it was when we started following it. The stock price reflects this: AVGN closed yesterday at $1.32, up 103.8% from our $0.65 purchase price. We last estimated the net cash liquidation value at around $34M or $1.14 per share. Including the $3M from MediciNova would increase that value to around $37M or $1.24 per share. We believe that there is a reasonable chance that AVGN will yield more than its current $1.32 share price when the “contingent payment right” capturing the near term payments from Genzyme is taken into account. AVGN shareholders also have an option-like exposure to any value in AVGN’s AV411 assets and program, although we cannot estimate the value of this with any certainty.

The press release from AVGN regarding the business combination with MediciNova is set out below:

MediciNova and Avigen Confirm Understanding for Key Terms for a Business Combination

SAN DIEGO and ALAMEDA, Calif., June 25, 2009 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — MediciNova, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company that is publicly traded on the Nasdaq Global Market (Nasdaq:MNOV – News) and the Hercules Market of the Osaka Securities Exchange (Code Number:4875), and Avigen, Inc. (Nasdaq:AVGN – News), a biopharmaceutical company, today announced that they have confirmed their understanding of certain key terms for a proposed acquisition of Avigen by MediciNova that would combine the companies’ broad neurological clinical development programs based on ibudilast (Avigen’s AV-411 and MediciNova’s MN-166).

MediciNova and Avigen currently contemplate that the terms of the merger would provide that Avigen shareholders receive consideration approximating Avigen’s net cash liquidation value plus $3 million. Avigen shareholders would be able to elect to receive this consideration in cash at closing or to receive a convertible security by which that cash consideration may be converted into MediciNova stock at a conversion price equal to the greater of $4.00 or a mutually agreeable volume-weighted average price of MediciNova common stock. At the end of 18 months, any unexercised convertible securities would be paid out at their cash value. This would allow shareholders of both companies the opportunity to participate in the future value created by combining the companies’ product portfolios. In addition to the consideration above, all Avigen shareholders would receive a contingent payment right for a specific product program milestone payment associated with Avigen’s Assignment Agreement with Genzyme Corporation, potentially subject to certain adjustments.

Yuichi Iwaki, M.D., Ph.D., MediciNova’s President and Chief Executive Officer, said, “We are excited to announce this important step towards a potential acquisition of Avigen and believe that the proposed merger presents clear advantages for the shareholders of both companies, most notably, the ability to more fully take advantage of the opportunities that the ibudilast compound and analogs provide in a variety of indications and markets. We look forward to finalizing definitive documentation as expeditiously as possible and to presenting this transaction for shareholder approval in due course.”

“Avigen believes the proposed merger on the terms currently contemplated would be in the best interests of our shareholders and we intend to continue to negotiate with the goal of reaching agreement on all of the terms and presenting it to our shareholders for approval in the third quarter of 2009,” commented Andrew Sauter, Avigen’s Chief Executive Officer, President and Chief Financial Officer. “We believe that combining our ibudilast programs, AV411 and MN-166, would enhance the global development potential for the compound in a range of neurological indications, including Multiple Sclerosis, neuropathic pain and drug addiction.”

The understanding reached by the parties is nonbinding and subject to definitive documentation and due diligence. The closing of any proposed merger would also be subject to customary closing conditions, including required shareholder and regulatory approvals and the absence of material adverse changes. MediciNova and Avigen are not legally obligated to continue discussions regarding the proposed transaction on the terms described herein or on any other terms. No definitive agreements have been reached, and there can be no assurances that definitive agreements will be successfully negotiated, that the proposed terms will not be revised or that the proposed merger will be completed.

[Full Disclosure: We have a holding in AVGN. 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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Update June 16, 2009: SOAP has announced that it proposes to liquidate. See our post below.

Update June 3, 2009: We’ve pinned this post to the front page. Any new posts between now and July 4th will appear below this post.

June 1, 2009 marked the end of Greenbackd’s second quarter. It’s time again to report on the performance of the Greenbackd Portfolio and the positions in the portfolio, discuss the evolution of our valuation methodology and outline the future direction of Greenbackd.com.

Second quarter performance of the Greenbackd Portfolio

The second quarter was nothing short of a blockbuster for the Greenbackd Portfolio, up 74.2% on an absolute basis, which was 52.8% higher than the return on the S&P500 return over the same period. A large positive return for the period is heartening, but our celebration is tempered by the fact that it is difficult to avoid a good return in a market that rises 25.0% in a quarter. Our Q1 performance was -3.7% (see our first quarter performance here), which means that our total return since inception (assuming equal weighting in each quarter) is 67.8% against a return on the S&P500 of 11.6%, or an outperformance of 56.2% over the return in the S&P500.

It is still too early to determine how Greenbackd’s strategy of investing in undervalued asset situations with a catalyst is performing, but we believe we are heading in the right direction. Set out below is a list of all the stocks in the Greenbackd Portfolio and the absolute and relative performance of each from the close of the last trading day of the first quarter, Friday, February 28, 2009, to the close on the last trading day in the second quarter, May 29, 2009:

Greenbackd Portfolio Performance 2009 Q2You may have noticed something odd about our presentation of performance. The S&P500 index rose by 25.0% in our second quarter (from 735.09 to 919.14). Our +74.2% performance might suggest an outperformance over the S&P500 index of 49.2%, while we report outperformance of 52.8%. We calculate our performance on a slightly different basis, recording the level of the S&P500 index on the day each stock is added to the portfolio and then comparing the performance of each stock against the index for the same holding period. The Total Relative performance, therefore, is the average performance of each stock against the performance of the S&P500 index for the same periods. As we discussed above, the holding period for Greenbackd’s positions has been too short to provide any meaningful information about the likely performance of the strategy over the long term (2 to 5 years), but we believe that the strategy should outperform the market by a small margin.

Greenbackd’s valuation methodology

We started Greenbackd in an effort to extend our understanding of asset-based valuation described by Benjamin Graham in the 1934 Edition of Security Analysis. (You can see our summary of Graham’s approach here). Through some great discussion with our readers, many of whom work in the fund management industry as experienced analysts or even managing members of hedge funds, and by incorporating the observations of Marty Whitman (see Marty Whitman’s adjustments to Graham’s net net formula here) and Seth Klarman (our Seth Klarman series starts here), we have refined our process. We believe that what started out as a pretty unsophisticated application of Graham’s liquidation value methodology has evolved into a more realistic analysis of the balance sheet and the relationship of certain disclosures in the financial statements to asset value. Our analyses are now quantitatively more robust than when we started and that has manifest itself in better performance.

Tweedy Browne offers some compelling evidence for the asset based valuation approach here.

Update on the holdings in the Greenbackd Portfolio

There are eleven stocks remaining in the Greenbackd Portfolio:

  1. VXGN (added March 26, 2009 @ $0.48)
  2. DRAD (added March 9, 2009 @ $0.88)
  3. ASYS (added March 5, 2009 @ $2.78)
  4. CAPS (added February 27, 2009 @ $0.60)
  5. DITC (added February 19, 2009 @ $0.89)
  6. SOAP (added February 2, 2009 @ $2.50)
  7. NSTR (added January 16, 2009 @ $1.91)
  8. ACLS (added January 8, 2009 @ $0.60)
  9. MATH (added December 17, 2008 @ $0.68)
  10. ABTL (added December 11, 2008 @ $0.43)
  11. AVGN (added December 1, 2008 @ $0.65)

The future of Greenbackd.com

We are taking a brief vacation. We’ll be back full-time after July 4th, always reserving the right to post interesting ideas in the interum and update our open positions. If you’re looking for net nets in the meantime, there are two good screens:

  1. GuruFocus has a Graham net net screen ($249 per year)
  2. Graham Investor NCAV screen (Free)

Greenbackd is a labor of love. We try to create new content every week day, and to get the stock analyses up just after midnight Eastern Standard Time, so that they’re available before the markets open the following day. Most of the stocks that are currently trading at a premium to the price at which we originally identified them traded for a period at a discount to the price at which we identified them. This means that there are plenty of opportunities to trade on our ideas (not that we suggest you do that without reading our disclosures and doing your own research). If you find the ideas here compelling and you get some value from them, you can support our efforts by making a donation via PayPal.

We look forward to bringing you the best undervalued asset situations we can dig up in the next quarter.

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Avigen Inc (NASDAQ:AVGN) has been granted a United States Patent for the treatment of neuropathic pain with its AV411 (ibudilast) compound.

We started following AVGN in December last year (see archived posts here) because it was a net cash stock (i.e. it was trading at less than the value of its cash after deducting all liabilities), albeit a cash burning net cash stock, and specialist biotechnology investor Biotechnology Value Fund (BVF) was pushing it to liquidate and return its cash to shareholders. Despite BVF’s failure to remove the board, we continued to maintain our position in AVGN because BVF won a number of important concessions from the board that made AVGN a much more attractive stock than it was when we started following it. The stock price reflects this: AVGN is up 94% from $0.65 when we initiated the position to close yesterday at $1.26. We’ve reduced our estimate of the net cash slightly to $34M or $1.14 per share. We believe that the there is a good chance that AVGN will yield considerably more than its net cash value. The net cash estimate does not take into account AVGN’s AV411 assets and program or near term payments from Genzyme, which could be worth as much as $6M to $25M or between $0.18 or $0.75 per share more.

The announcement from the company is as follows:

Avigen Granted AV411 Patent for Neuropathic Pain

ALAMEDA, Calif., May 20, 2009 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Avigen, Inc. (Nasdaq:AVGN) a biopharmaceutical company, announced today that it has been granted United States Patent No. 7,534,806, entitled “Method for Treating Neuropathic Pain and Associated Syndromes.” The patent covers the treatment of neuropathic pain with therapeutic doses of AV411 (ibudilast), including syndromes like diabetic neuropathy, post-herpetic neuralgia, and fibromyalgia, and neuropathic pain associated with stroke or accompanying cancer chemotherapy. Avigen anticipates additional patents will be issued covering indications that include addiction, delirium, and psychotic disorders, as well as composition of matter claims on AV411 analogs. AV411 is marketed in Japan but not approved for any indication in the United States.

“This patent is a critical first step to securing broad exclusivity for AV411 and analogs in the key markets of neuropathic pain and addiction,” commented Andrew Sauter, Avigen’s Chief Executive Officer, President and Chief Financial Officer. “We are currently seeking to monetize our AV411 drug development portfolio and believe the issuance of this patent, along with our active U.S. IND and Phase 2-staged data package, enhances the value proposition to potential buyers.”

“This is a significant accomplishment that reflects Avigen’s strategic efforts to identify novel mechanisms to treat neurologic disorders and to protect the know-how and intellectual property of our scientific discoveries,” stated Kirk Johnson, Ph.D., Vice President of Research and Development at Avigen. “Our intellectual property portfolio is advancing in parallel with our AV411 development efforts for pain states and certain drug addiction conditions, thus creating a cohesive program.”

Avigen discovered the utility of AV411 through its internal program to develop innovative and targeted approaches to reducing nervous system dysfunction caused by glial cell activation. Avigen was issued the new patent after demonstrating that AV411 effectively and safely treated neuropathic pain in well-recognized, standard preclinical animal models. The claims broadly cover the treatment of neuropathic pain, and make specific reference to using AV411 to treat many forms of neuropathic pain including diabetic neuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia, trigeminal neuralgia, HIV, stroke, fibromyalgia, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, complex regional pain syndrome, spinal cord injury, sciatica, phantom limb pain, and cancer chemotherapeutic-induced neuropathic pain.

AVGN’s board is developing a plan of liquidation, which should put a floor on AVGN’s stock at around its net cash value of $34M or $1.14 per share less wind down costs. There exists a good chance that AVGN will yield considerably more than its net cash value. The net cash estimate does not take into account AVGN’s AV411 technology or near term payments from Genzyme, which could be worth as much as $6M to $25M or between $0.18 or $0.75 per share more. With the downside protected, and a good chance at a substantial $0.75 per share upside from here, we think AVGN still represents good value, and we’re going to maintain our position accordingly.

[Full Disclosure: We have a holding in AVGN. 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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Avigen Inc (NASDAQ:AVGN) has filed its 10Q for the period ended March 31, 2009.

We started following AVGN in December last year (see archived posts here) because it was a net cash stock (i.e. it was trading at less than the value of its cash after deducting all liabilities), albeit a cash burning net cash stock, and specialist biotechnology investor Biotechnology Value Fund (BVF) was pushing it to liquidate and return its cash to shareholders. Despite BVF’s failure to remove the board, we continued to maintain our position in AVGN because BVF won a number of important concessions from the board that made AVGN a much more attractive stock than it was when we started following it. The stock price reflects this: AVGN is up 97% from $0.65 when we initiated the position to close yesterday at $1.28. We’ve reduced our estimate of the net cash slightly to $34M or $1.14 per share. We believe that the there is a good chance that AVGN will yield considerably more than its net cash value. The net cash estimate does not take into account AVGN’s AV411 assets and program or near term payments from Genzyme, which could be worth as much as $6M to $25M or between $0.18 or $0.75 per share more.

The value proposition updated

Set out below is our adjusted balance sheet for AVGN (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):

AVGN Summary 2009 3 31Conclusion

While BVF’s slate was not successful at the special meeting, AVGN’s board is now developing its own plan of liquidation, which should put a floor on AVGN’s stock at around its net cash value of $34M or $1.14 per share less wind down costs. There exists a good chance that AVGN will yield considerably more than its net cash value. The net cash estimate does not take into account AVGN’s AV411 assets and program or near term payments from Genzyme, which could be worth as much as $6M to $25M or between $0.18 or $0.75 per share more. With the downside protected, and a good chance at a substantial $0.18 or $0.75 per share upside from here, we think AVGN still represents good value, and we’re going to maintain our position accordingly.

[Full Disclosure: We have a holding in AVGN. 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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The Official Activist Investing Blog has published its list of activist investments for March (links are to the relevant post archive for our open positions):

Ticker Company Investor
ACTL Actel Corp Ramius Capital
AGYS Agilysys Inc Ramius Capital
AMLN Amylin Pharmaceuticals Eastbourne Capital
ASPM Aspect Medical Systems First Manhattan Co
ASPM Aspect Medical Systems Coghill Capital
AVCA Advocat Inc. Bristol Investment Fund
AVGN Avigen Inc Biotechnology Value Fund
BARI Bancorp Rhode Island Financial Edge Fund
BASI Bioanalytical Systems Thomas Harenburg
BBI Blockbuster Inc. Mark Wattles
BBW Build-A-Bear Workshop Crescendo Capital
BNV Beverly National Corp Lawrence Seidman
CAMD California Micro Devices Corp Dialectic Capital Management
CEE Central Europe & Russia Fund City of London Investment Group
CHIC Charlotte Russe Holding Inc KarpReilly Capital Management
CITZ CFS Bancorp Inc Financial Edge Fund
CLCT Collectors Universe Shamrock Activist Value Fund
CLHI.PK CLST Holdings Red Oak Partners
CRGN Curagen Corp DellaCamera Capital
CTO Consolidated Tomoka Land Co Wintergreen Advisers
CYBI Cybex International Discovery Partners
DSCM Drugstore.com Discovery Partners
DVD Dover Motorsports, Inc. Gamco Investors
FACE Physicians Formula Holdings, Inc Mill Road Capital
FMMH.OB Fremont Michigan Insurance Corp Harry Long
FSCI Fisher Communications Gamco Investors
GET Gaylord Entertainment GAMCO
GET Gaylord Entertainment TRT Holdings
GMXR GMX Resources Centennial Energy Partners
HWK Hawk Corp Gamco Investors
IPAS iPass Inc Foxhill Opportunity Master Fund
JAX J. Alexanders Corp Mill Road Capital
KFS Kingsway Financial Services Oakmont Capital
KONA Kona Grill Mill Road Capital
LCAV LCA Vision Inc Stephen Joffe
LGF Lions Gate Entertainment Carl Icahn
LNBB LNB Bancorp Richard Osborne
LSR Life Sciences Research Andrew Baker
MCGC MCG Capital Springbok Capital
MCRL Micrel Inc Obrem Capital
MDS Midas Inc. Silverstone Capital
MHGC Morgans Hotel Group Co Edward Scheetz
MIM MI Developments Hotchkis & Wiley Capital
MXF The Mexico Fund Inc. City of London Investment Group
MYE Myers Industries GAMCO Investors
NLCI Nobel Learning Communities Blesbok Inc
NOX Neuberger Berman Income Opportunity Fund Western Investment
NTN NTN Buzztime Trinad Capital
NUF Nuveen Florida Quality Income Municipal Fund Western Investment
PHH PHH Corp Pennant Capital
PNNW Pennichuck Corp Gamco Investors
PPCO Penwest Pharmaceuticals Tang Capital; Perceptive Life Sciences
PXD Pioneer Natural Resources Southeastern Asset Management
RDC Rowan Companies Steel Partners
RHDC.PK RH Donnelley Dodsville Investments
RPT Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust Equity One
RUBO Rubios Restaurant Alex Meruelo
SCLN SciClone Pharmaceuticals Sigma Tau Financial
SLRY Salary.com Raging Capital Management
SRLS Seracare Life Sciences Ltova Holdings
SSE Southern Connecticut Bancorp Inc Lawrence Seidman
SUAI Specialty Underwriters Alliance Hallmark Financial Services
SUG Southern Union Co Sandell Asset Management
TDS Telephone & Data Systems Inc. Gamco Investors
TGT Target Corp Pershing Square Capital
TMI TM Entertainment & Media Bulldog Investors
TRID Trident Microsystems Inc. Spencer Capital
TRMA Trico Marine Kistefos AS
VSNT Versant Corp Discovery Capital
WBSN Websense Inc Shamrock Actvivist Value fund
WOC Wilshire Enterprises Pennsylvania Avenue Funds
WOC Wilshire Enterprises Bulldog Investors

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Biotechnology Value Fund (BVF) failed in its bid to remove Avigen Inc’s (NASDAQ:AVGN) board at Friday’s special meeting of stockholders, despite 58% of stockholders voting in favor of removing the board and only 12% voting in favor of retaining the incumbents.

The outcome highlights the difficulties faced by stockholders in selecting rival slates of directors. To succeed, BVF required affirmative votes from two-thirds of all AVGN’s stockholders, which, as we’ve pointed out previously, was a very high threshold. To use the example we used last time, if only 10% of AVGN’s voters failed to vote, BVF required almost three-quarters of the vote from those actually casting a ballot. With 30% of stockholders failing to cast a ballot at the special meeting Friday, BVF’s task was herculean, requiring 96% of the ballots cast to be in BVF’s favor. It’s possible that stockholders who didn’t vote at all purposely abstained knowing that it would count against BVF, and they did therefore express their voting intentions. It’s also possible that they failed to vote for myriad other reasons, including not receiving the documents in time, not understanding the documents, not caring or not understanding that failing to vote counted as a vote for the incumbents. Of the stockholders casting a ballot, their intentions were clear. BVF received approximately 83% of the votes actually cast by AVGN stockholders (58%/70%). Excluding BVF’s own ballots from the calculation above (~30%), BVF still received approximately 70% of the votes (28%/40%). In either case, a strong endorsement of BVF’s slate, but insufficient to carry the day.

Despite BVF’s failure to remove the board, we’re going to maintain our position in AVGN. BVF has won a number of important concessions from the board that make AVGN a much more attractive stock than it was when we started following it in December last year (see archived posts here). The stock price also reflects this: AVGN is up 89% from $0.65 when we initiated the position to close on Friday at $1.23. We opened our position because AVGN was a net cash stock (i.e. it’s trading at less than the value of its cash after deducting all liabilities), albeit a cash burning net cash stock, and BVF was pushing it to liquidate and return its cash to shareholders. While BVF’s slate was not successful at the special meeting, AVGN’s board now plans to develop its own plan of liquidation, which should put a floor on AVGN’s stock at around its net cash value of $37M or $1.24 per share less wind down costs. There exists a good chance that AVGN will yield considerably more than its net cash value. The net cash estimate does not take into account AVGN’s AV411 assets and program or near term payments from Genzyme, which could be worth as much as $6M to $25M or between $0.18 or $0.75 per share more (Thanks Double F). With the downside protected, and a good chance at a substantial $0.18 or $0.75 per share upside from here, we think AVGN still represents good value, and we’re going to maintain our position accordingly.

BVF’s press release is as follows:

Biotechnology Value Fund, L.P. Announces Overwhelming Support to Remove the Board of Directors of Avigen, Inc. at Special Meeting of Stockholders

Friday March 27, 2009, 1:10 pm EDT

Concurs with Avigen’s decision to return capital to stockholders through liquidation

A decisive victory for stockholder democracy

SAN FRANCISCO, March 27 /PRNewswire/ — Biotechnology Value Fund, L.P. (“BVF”), today announced that stockholders of Avigen (Nasdaq: AVGN – News) voted overwhelmingly to remove the existing Board of Directors of Avigen and replace them with BVF’s nominees. The vote took place earlier today at the special meeting of Avigen stockholders called by BVF. The preliminary vote count was approximately 58% in favor of removing Avigen’s entire Board and 12% against removal.

Additionally, yesterday Avigen finally offered what BVF and stockholders have consistently sought but Avigen had steadfastly resisted: quantified downside protection. Specifically, Avigen announced yesterday that it would terminate merger discussions, implement a plan of liquidation and return at least $1.20 per share to all stockholders. BVF supports Avigen’s decision, albeit a late one, and intends to work constructively with the Board to maximize the return to stockholders. Since the removal of the Board required the affirmative vote of 66 2/3% of the outstanding shares — a very high hurdle — the existing Board will remain in office and manage the liquidation.

Mark Lampert, BVF Founder and President stated, “This is a great day for stockholder democracy — stockholders have spoken and their wishes have prevailed. Avigen’s remaining capital will not be squandered but, instead, will be returned to stockholders so that each may decide how best to utilize their capital. For our part, we will look to reinvest the proceeds into the most promising small cap biotechnology companies that have the greatest potential to improve peoples’ lives. In the current economic environment, the capital preserved through Avigen’s liquidation may be the difference between success and failure of important new medicines.”

Oleg Nodelman, a Portfolio Manager with BVF added, “We are deeply appreciative of the trust and support placed in us by the majority of Avigen stockholders. We believe their resounding support was directly responsible for the Board’s decision to discontinue its risky merger discussions and to commence with a plan of liquidation. We are disappointed that Avigen did not offer downside protection sooner so that the significant capital consumed during this proxy contest could have been returned to stockholders months ago. We also wish to acknowledge the constructive and bold efforts of MediciNova throughout this process. We encourage Avigen to engage with MediciNova during the liquidation process; we intend to be helpful in this regard.”

BVF’s existing tender offer will terminate because BVF’s nominees were not elected at the special meeting.

[Full Disclosure: We have a holding in AVGN. 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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Avigen Inc (NASDAQ:AVGN) has discontinued its merger discussions and terminated its Chief Executive Officer and President, Kenneth Chahine, its Chief Business Officer, Michael Coffee, and its General Counsel, M. Christina Thomson, ahead of the special meeting of stockholders to be held today. Stockholders are to vote on BVF’s proposal to remove the board of AVGN and elect Biotechnology Value Fund’s (BVF) slate of director nominees. AVGN “intends to develop a plan of liquidation” following the special meeting if BVF’s nominees are not elected to the board, which now seems unlikely.

We’ve been following AVGN (see archived posts here) because it’s a net cash stock (i.e. it’s trading at less than the value of its cash after deducting all liabilities) and specialist biotechnology investor BVF has been pushing it to liquidate and return its cash to shareholders. MediciNova Inc (NASDAQ:MNOV) has made an offer for AVGN that we think represents a clever way for AVGN’s stockholders to receive cash equivalent to that which they would receive in a liquidation (less $7M to be paid to MNOV) with the possibility for “an extraordinary, uncapped return” if MNOV is successful post-merger. BVF has offered $1.20 for each share of AVGN, which is up from its initial offer of $1.00. The stock is up 81.5% from $0.65 to close at $1.18 yesterday. We estimate AVGN’s net cash value to be $37M or $1.24 per share (BVF estimates $1.20 per share). The net cash estimate does not take into account AVGN’s AV411 assets and program, which could be worth considerably more, perhaps as much as $5M to $20M or between $0.15 or $0.60 per share.

AVGN’s amended proxy filing sets out a series of discussions between AVGN and BVF leading up to yesterday’s announcement:

Later in the day on March 20, 2009, RBC contacted BVF with the intent to negotiate an increase in the Offer price to compensate the remaining stockholders for the value of Avigen’s AV411 assets and potential Genzyme milestone payments that Avigen believed were not reflected in the revised Offer price.

Over the weekend of March 20-22, 2009 Avigen’s advisors and BVF discussed a proposal by Avigen to work together to maximize stockholder value. Among other things, Avigen’s advisors proposed that Avigen would share with BVF for its consideration and input, following execution by BVF of an appropriate confidentiality agreement, the proposals received by Avigen relating to potential strategic transactions.

On March 23, 2009, BVF requested that Avigen have its counsel and financial advisors prepare an agreement between Avigen and BVF that would allow BVF to actively review and participate in negotiating the strategic proposals under consideration, including the proposal from MediciNova, to determine if Avigen and BVF could jointly agree on a proposal to present to stockholders for a vote, and with the other terms provided below, as well as the terms of a joint press release announcing these arrangements.

The draft agreement prepared on behalf of Avigen and submitted to BVF on March 24, 2009 provided that if the parties agreed on a strategic transaction, BVF would sign a tender and/or voting agreement in favor of the transaction recommended by the Board and presented to stockholders for approval. The draft agreement further provided that if no agreement for a strategic transaction were signed with a third party by May 8, 2009, Avigen would begin a formal liquidation process, with the goal of distributing at least $1.00 per Share to stockholders. Avigen’s obligations under the draft agreement were explicitly subject to a customary fiduciary out.

The draft agreement also provided that BVF would not modify its revised Offer of $1.20 per Share and that Avigen would reserve the right at any time during the process to terminate the Rights Agreement, support the revised Offer and support the BVF nominees, if the Board determined that such actions were in the best interests of stockholders.

On March 24, 2009, a representative of BVF stated to a representative of Avigen that it would not enter into the draft agreement.

On March 25, 2009, the Board met and reviewed Avigen’s alternatives, in light of BVF’s rejection of the draft agreement and the difficulty of obtaining stockholder approval for any strategic transaction without BVF’s support.

On March 26, 2009, Avigen issued a press release announcing the Board’s recommendation with respect to the revised Offer and the termination of the employment of certain corporate officers.

The AVGN press release is as follows:

Avigen Board Discontinues Strategic Merger Discussions to Develop a Plan for Liquidation

Avigen Board Neutral on Tender Offer

Alameda, CA, March 26, 2009 – Avigen, Inc. (Nasdaq: AVGN), a biopharmaceutical company, today announced that its Board of Directors has discontinued its strategic merger discussions and intends to develop a plan of liquidation following the special meeting of stockholders on March 27, 2009 if the BVF Nominees are not elected to the Board. The Board also announced that it reviewed the conditional offer from BVF Acquisition LLC and its affiliates to acquire all of the outstanding shares of Avigen. The Board, after a thorough review with management and its financial and legal advisors, is expressing no opinion and is remaining neutral with regard to the tender offer.

In taking a neutral stance on the tender offer, the Board noted the following:

* The Board believes that the offer price of $1.20 per share is approximately the company’s current net cash value less wind down costs, but does not reflect the value for the company’s other assets, including its AV411 pain and addiction program and rights to future payments from Genzyme Corporation.

* The Board recognizes the preference of some shareholders for immediate and certain liquidity.

* The Board believes it can deliver more than $1.20 per share from net cash assets less wind down costs, rights to approximately $6 million ($0.20 per share) of near-term Genzyme payments and the sale of AV411.

* BVF has stated that it intends to pursue a transaction with MediciNova, which the Board does not believe under the current terms would be in the best interests of stockholders.

“Based on the actions taken by BVF, Avigen’s Board believes its ability to pursue the strategic alternatives that the Board believes will increase stockholder value is all but foreclosed,” stated Zola Horovitz, Ph.D., Avigen’s Chairman of the Board. “Our Board has established a responsible pattern for dealing decisively with strategic issues, as demonstrated following the negative data from the company’s AV650 clinical trial in October 2008. While our Board considers the inability to continue its strategic process unfortunate, it has abandoned discussions for a strategic transaction and intends to develop a plan that will maximize liquidation value. As such, the Board determined that the company no longer needs to retain the services of the majority of its employees that were supporting strategic discussions and has reduced its headcount accordingly.”

The officers of the company included in the headcount reduction were Kenneth Chahine, Chief Executive Officer and President, Michael Coffee, Chief Business Officer, and M. Christina Thomson, General Counsel. Taking over as Chief Executive Officer and President is Andrew Sauter, the company’s Chief Financial Officer.

[Full Disclosure: We have a holding in AVGN. 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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