New Battleground Emerges For Dendreon Bulls And Bears

| About: Dendreon Corporation (DNDN)

The fierce and unending battle between Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN) bulls and bears has entered new territory: TV advertising.

In a rather unconventional and unusual move, Dendreon management has been purchasing airtime for its Provenge commercial (which can be viewed here). From this we can infer that the company is very eager to boost public awareness on the efficacy that its autologous cell therapy has demonstrated in prostate cancer patients, although many are skeptical that television advertisements are a good use of Dendreon's marketing budget.

As mentioned in an interesting Seeking Alpha article by Dendreon investor Theodore Cohen, Internet searches on Provenge have spiked in direct reaction to the commercials although it remains very uncertain whether the public's awareness of Provenge will have any noticeable effects on Provenge sales revenues.

Wall Street has not been kind to DNDN in the last month, as shares are down 25.5% and 13.6% since the start of the year. Considering that YTD gains on the S&P 500 and iShares Biotech Index (NASDAQ: IBB) are sitting at 8.9% and 16.6% respectively, one can infer that there is little faith in the company at this point.

There is also enormous short interest in the stock last reported by Nasdaq to be 51.7 million shares (~236 million), although the sheer size of open short interest could be considered a contrarian indicator for the short to medium run.

Institutional backing of DNDN common has been mixed, but some bulls remain optimistic due to the fact that some well-known names like Vanguard are accumulating. As of last report, Vanguard held 8.6 million after steady buying all throughout 2012, but this is small potatoes considering that the company has over $2 trillion in assets under management making DNDN .002% of their portfolio. Other notable buyers like Bank of New York Mellon have similar allocations for DNDN common.

Then you have sellers, like healthcare-focused Orbimed Advisors with ~$7 billion in assets under management but a more proportionally significant stake in DNDN (~.22% of their portfolio at the end of 2012). They were sellers throughout H2 2012, and may be adding to Dendreon's decline in price per share if they're still selling pieces of their 3.4 million share stake in the company. Other notable sellers in 2012 include Primecap Management and Putnam Investment Management.

Since TV ads for autologous cell therapies represent completely unexplored territory, we can't rule out the possibility of a jump in DNDN top-line revenues next quarter although we can infer that the company is taking a true "leap of faith" that may end up breaking some bones.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. 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.