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Originally published October 28, 2013 at 8:28 AM | Page modified October 28, 2013 at 1:27 PM

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Dendreon jumps on report it seeks a buyer


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Dendreon, the Seattle-based maker of the prostate-cancer drug Provenge, rose 11 percent in Monday trading after a report the company is seeking a buyer.

The company’s shares had fallen 52 percent this year through Oct. 25, but jumped 28 cents to $2.81 following a Bloomberg News report late Friday that Dendreon is working with JPMorgan Chase & Co. to find suitors.

The company, whose market value once topped $7 billion, has failed to meet expectations for sales of Provenge, and its market capitalization hovered at about $400 million before the report.

“We view this as both plausible and sensible, as the company seeks a way out of the $647 million convertible debt noose tied around its neck,” Lee Kalowski, an analyst with Credit Suisse, wrote in an Oct. 27 research note. “But Dendreon is facing notable commercial and financial struggles and we don’t foresee a big bidding war.”

In August, analyst David Nierengarten of Wedbush Securities said Provenge’s stalled sales and high production costs made a sale unlikely. “A shrinking top line and overly cost-burdened bottom line are not what acquirers are looking for,” he wrote. “There is little ability for shareholders to avoid either bankruptcy or massive dilution via the refinancing of DNDN’s convertible debt.”

In an email Monday he reiterated that view, saying, “I’m very doubtful anybody will buy them.”

A different take came Monday from analyst Jason Kolbert of Maxim Group, who wrote that a buyer with an existing sales force could cut Provenge’s costs and make the drug profitable. He

Kolbert made the case for a potential acquisition price of $10 but added, “Of course, if no suitor appears, this becomes an academic exercise.

Dendreon said in early August that sales of Provenge, its sole marketed product, wouldn’t increase this year as forecast. When the treatment won approval in 2010, analysts projected the drug could generate $4.3 billion in sales by 2020. Today the estimate for that period has shrunk to $476.5 million.

Led since mid-2012 by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Johnson, Dendreon has burned through money for at least six straight quarters. Cash and short-term investments had dropped to $207.4 million as of June from $538.6 million at the end of 2011.

Andy Brimmer, a spokesman for Dendreon with Joele Frank Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher, on Oct. 25 declined to comment on any sale process. A JPMorgan spokeswoman also declined to comment.

Dendreon is scheduled to report its third-quarter results Nov. 12.

Seattle Times business staff contributed to this report.



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