By Jake King
PharmAthene Inc. (PIP) announced on Thursday that the Delaware Supreme Court heard oral arguments in ongoing litigation with SIGA Technologies (SIGA). A previous ruling in the case, plus potential for upwards of $185 million in guaranteed revenue to PIP, suggest that this $55 million stock has considerable room to run.
PharmAthene develops countermeasures for biological and chemical weapons, including the SparVax rPA Anthrax Vaccine, the Valortim Anthrax Anti-Toxin, and Bioscavenger for nerve agents. But in 2006 PharmAthene filed a complaint against SIGA Technologies, a fellow biodefense developer, alleging among other things that PharmAthene had the right to license exclusively development and marketing rights for SIGA's smallpox antiviral ST-246 (Arestvyr), pursuant to a merger agreement between the parties that was also terminated that year. Litigation continued into May 2012, when the court issued its final judgment and awarded PharmAthene the right to receive 50% of all net profits from the sale of ST-246 for 10 years once SIGA earns $40 million in net profits, plus $2.4 million for accrued attorney fees.
Considering that SIGA has an agreement with the U.S. government's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) worth $435 million ($412 million for product purchase) for the delivery of two million courses of ST-246 over the course of five years, PharmAthene would be looking at substantial income from the agreement alone, additional product sales aside. And SIGA has offered guidance that it will begin Arestvyr sales to the government in the first quarter of this year, meaning revenue to PIP could begin in the near term. It's important to note, however, that litigation has yet to be finalized.
Litigation is not yet complete, but precedence is indicative of a positive vote within the first half 2013. Following the final ruling of the Delaware Supreme Court in May, SIGA Technologies appealed the verdict, and PharmAthene cross-appealed, challenging other parts of the court's ruling. The maneuvers yet again delayed the finality of the decision. The oral arguments, which concluded on Thursday, represent the last stage before a final ruling, which the court is expected to issue by the second quarter of 2013 (60 to 90 days after oral arguments), although we believe a ruling could come toward the earlier end of that range.
We see little reason for the Delaware Supreme Court to overrule its previous decision in favor of PharmAthene. In fact, the court has ruled in favor of PharmAthene on four separate occasions, suggesting that PIP will receive 50% of net Arestvyr profits. SIGA, by appealing the May verdict, has done little more than delay the inevitable. With sales of Arestvyr to the U.S. government set to begin in the first quarter, it looks as if PharmAthene may see revenues in relation quite soon.
PIP's current valuation is not factoring in a positive ruling. After a rally last June when PharmAthene announced the positive ruling from the Delaware Supreme Court, PIP has trended downward, declining 30% over eight months. PIP trades at $1.13, a $55 million market capitalization, and considering the stock's pop to $1.82 following the announcement of the final ruling last year, PIP could again make a major move on a similar announcement in the first quarter of this year. A positive ruling and 50% of Arestvyr profits (sales of $412 million-plus) are indicative of a substantially higher valuation for the small developer.
The company's own lead candidate, Sparvax, is currently under an FDA clinical hold, but PharmAthene believes that it has assembled a comprehensive response that addresses the FDA's concerns and will file the response shortly. The clinical hold is in relation to a proposed Phase II trial for the anthrax vaccine, which has already been through two Phase II clinical trials involving more than 700 healthy humans. To date, the U.S. government has awarded commitments of roughly $240 million for PIP's pipeline development. In addition, PharmAthene has a solid balance sheet, with approximately $18 million in cash/equivalents at the end of 2012 and an expected burn rate for the 2012 fiscal year of just $6 million.
Regardless, the upcoming Supreme Court ruling will drive considerable value for PharmAthene if positive. While certainly not guaranteed, the court has ruled on four separate occasions in favor of PharmAthene, and it's unlikely to overrule its latest decision. PIP has room for upside of 60% if shares jump to the $1.80 levels that succeeded its last positive ruling, suggesting a quality risk/reward ratio for PIP in the near term.
Disclosure: I am long PIP. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
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