LONDON ¿ Pharming Group BV, the first biotechnology company in the Netherlands to secure a stock market listing, reported late last week that it would file for receivership after failing at the last minute to secure a EUR15 million credit facility announced a week earlier.
Rein Strijker, senior vice president for corporate development, told BioWorld International that two events last week had forced the company into receivership. ¿We, at the very last moment, were unable to close the financing agreement. There was a certain financial security the bank needed, which we could not provide at short notice,¿ he said. ¿The second thing was that we received a bid for a major part of the company that the board considered to be unacceptably low.¿
The shares, listed on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange and Nasdaq Europe, fell to an all-time low of EUR1.96 on Aug. 9 before being suspended at EUR2.32 on Aug. 10.
Strijker said the move into receivership was a ¿temporary situation,¿ to protect the company from creditors while Pharming tries to find a buyer. It is not clear if the existing bidder is likely to increase the offer. ¿Under the current circumstances, we thought it would be better to broaden discussions and give ourselves a bit more time to arrive at a better deal,¿ he said.
The company¿s chief financial officer, Ino Cooijmans, has been temporarily suspended.
Pharming, a specialist in the production of human proteins in the milk of transgenic animals, will be keeping all staff on and will continue operations for the time being, Strijker said. ¿There are three elements of value [in the company] ¿ the people, the big worldwide portfolio of intellectual property we have established, and the products in development. All three represent significant value.¿
Strijker said he did not want to comment on the identity of any potential bidders for the company. One of the most likely ones, Cambridge, Mass.-based Genzyme Corp., would appear to have ruled itself out last week when it agreed to acquire Pharming¿s competitor, Novazyme Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Oklahoma City, for up to $225 million.
Novazyme, a specialist in enzyme replacement therapies, is in direct competition with Pharming in Pompe¿s disease. Pharming¿s compound Pompase, being developed in a 50-50 joint venture with Genzyme, is in Phase II/III, with filing for approval expected in 2002. Novazyme¿s treatment for the disease, NZ-1001, is still preclinical, but the company said last week that the tie-up with Genzyme would allow it to speed up clinical development.
Pharming¿s second product, a human C1 inhibitor in Phase I for the treatment of hereditary angio-edema, is being developed jointly with Baxter Healthcare Corp.
Strijker said it was not clear how much time Pharming has to find a buyer. ¿We want to move forward in the next few weeks,¿ he said.