By Randall Osborne

West Coast Editor

Symyx Technologies Inc. withdrew Tuesday its offering of 2.75 million shares, but neither the company nor one of the intended underwriters said the move was indicative of a downward slide likely to continue.

¿It¿s really reflective of what the company¿s objectives are,¿ said Jeryl Hilleman, vice president and chief financial officer of Santa Clara, Calif.-based Symyx. ¿Our intention was to be opportunistic, taking advantage of a strong market and a good stock price. But we¿re in a good cash position now. We ended [1999] with $119 million in cash, and a $2.1 million loss.¿

Another goal of the offering was to expand analyst coverage, she said.

¿We really looked at the yardstick,¿ Hilleman told BioWorld Today, and the factors in favor of going ahead with the offering did not measure up.

Richard van den Broek, in the New York office of Chase H&Q, which would have been an underwriter of the offering, said the time is too early to call the company¿s withdrawal the start of a downslide. Biotech stocks, in general, were showing some revival Wednesday, as part of a reversal that began mid-Tuesday, he said.

¿It¿s hard to say, since everything¿s back today,¿ van den Broek said.

¿Deals getting pulled ¿ is that symptomatic [of a downturn]? Absolutely,¿ he said, but evaluating the industry requires a long view.

¿Institutions have gotten more involved in the last two or three days,¿ van den Broek said, which means bigger parcels of money than were involved in the recent extreme volatility.

Symyx disclosed the filing earlier this month, intending to offer 2.75 million shares, of which 1.25 million were to be sold by the company and 1.5 million were to be sold by stockholders. Underwriters ¿ Chase H&Q, Credit Suisse First Boston Corp., ING Barings LLC and Invemed Associates LLC ¿ were granted an option to buy 412,000 more shares. (See BioWorld Today, March 17, 2000, p. 1.)

At the $64.75 opening price of Symyx¿s shares when the filing was disclosed, the offering of 1.25 million shares by the company would have raised about $81 million. The company¿s stock (NASDAQ:SMMX) closed Wednesday at $49.25, up $2.

Focused on high-speed, automated combinatorial chemistry and electronics, Symyx was co-founded in 1995 by Alejandro Zaffaroni, who also founded Alza Corp., of Palo Alto, Calif., and South San Francisco-based Affymetrix Inc., among other firms.

In January, Symyx entered a strategic collaboration with PE Biosystems, of Foster City, Calif., to develop Symyx¿s proprietary polymer synthesis materials and methods for use in the analysis of DNA.