Asterand seeking funds after share slash

By Natalie Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

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Asterand says it must raise additional funds after share prices dropped by more than half last week.

The company was left unsteady when its London share price fell by more than 53 per cent – from 4.75p to 4.12p – in the first two hours of trading.

The news comes just weeks after its CEO of Europe Martyn Coombs walked out stating personal reasons, shortly followed by CFO John Stchur, who quit with immediate effect after nine years with the firm.

However the company insists the departure if the two is unrelated to their current circumstance.

Equity analyst Vadim Alexandre at Daniel Stewart & Company told Outsourcing-Pharma: “The only thing I know is that they say it’s a coincidence of timing that the CFO and CEO both left at the same time as this.

“Martyn Coombs was with the company for about 8 or 9 years. If the company profit wanes and someone was thinking of leaving anyway, it’s not crazy to think that would give them another reason to leave.

“The company specifically said their leaving was unrelated to current issues. I’ll stand by that view, because that’s all I know.”

Now firm, which specializes in supplying human tissue samples used in areas like drug discovery and preclinical development, is seeking the additional funds needed to level its finances.

Chairman and interim CEO Jack Davis said: “Additional funds must be raised in the near future to see the group through this volatile trading period.”

Changing tactics

However, despite the drop in share price, the Detroit-based company still saw a 36 per cent increase in their interim group revenue thanks to their successful acquisition of BioSeek, who specialize in predictive primary human cell-based disease models for drug discovery.

Alexandre told Outsourcing-Pharma he is hopeful for the future of the business, putting the poor figures down to the inability to meet customer demands for the tissue supply industry as a whole.

He also cited the company’s challenges in meeting their $24.3 m contract​ with National Cancer Institute (NCI) as a factor which resulted in a retraction in the non-BioSeek revenues.

He said: “The company could get taken up by debtors, but I think there’s a good chance it won’t happen.

“Ultimately, a debt provider doesn’t get into the game to wind a company up. They want their coupon (the interest paid on a bond) and if there is a chance to help therefore getting more coupon, then they will.

“The company isn’t as much in a hole as a lot of the press seems to be reporting. There’s Bioseek, that’s doing very well. That was an acquisition made some time ago, and a very good acquisition.”

Of the “struggling”​ human tissue supply industry in general , Alexandre said that increasingly complex client requirements are affecting everyone.

He added: “Companies want more and more specific types of cell, say for instance a specific type of tumour, a specific size, all uniform, all treatment naïve – that’s difficult to produce and sometimes it’s just impossible.”

And though he acknowledges the problems within the sector, Davis said of the interim group increase: "This reflects the successful integration of our BioSeek acquisition, which has been a key growth driver within the group.

“At the same time we are seeing the benefits of our continuing drive to improve gross margins through focused cost reductions.”

“These efforts coupled with the steps we are taking to reduce volatility in the tissues solutions business position us well to attain a larger share of the burgeoning tissue and tissue services market."

Davis added that Asterand has “a reasonable expectation that sufficient funds will be raised within an appropriate timeframe to continue operating as a going concern and provide enough working capital headroom to fund improved tissue sourcing strategies.”

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