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Jacksonville-based TapImmune is courting investors

By Mark Basch, Contributing Writer

TapImmune Inc. will likely have no profit or revenue for the foreseeable future. But the Jacksonville-based immuno-oncology company is taking steps to attract attention on Wall Street.

The company in November got its stock listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market and as he gave a year-end report last week, CEO Glynn Wilson promised to hold regular conference calls to update investors on TapImmune’s progress.

TapImmune is developing immunotherapies — treatments that stimulate a person’s immune system — to fight cancer.

“Our vaccines have the potential to be a powerful stand-alone therapy against a variety of cancers, as well as a central component of a leading combination immunotherapy,” Wilson said in last week’s conference call.

“Our initial focus is on addressing the unmet need in women’s cancers,” he said, particularly ovarian and breast cancer. Wilson said those cancers have a high recurrence rate, so treatments are needed that can eliminate them entirely.

He said TapImmune’s focus on women’s cancers “distinguishes” it from other biotech companies.

“These cancers also tend to be resistant to most immunotherapies, which is why we believe we have a significant opportunity to improve the lives of these patients,” he said.

What also distinguishes TapImmune is its high-profile partners. The company moved its headquarters office to Jacksonville two years ago because of a clinical trial of one its therapies ongoing at the Mayo Clinic.

It also has trials underway involving the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca.

Wilson said those trial partners “thoroughly vetted our technology and recognized the value in advancing our lead candidates,” which gives TapImmune credibility.

TapImmune’s annual report filed last week showed a net loss of $2.46 million, or 36 cents a share, which is no surprise given that it has no products on the market. Wilson did say one of the company’s several therapies under development could begin producing “top line results” in 2018.

Even if some of its therapies become marketable, TapImmune won’t become a major employer in Jacksonville. Its annual report says it has just eight full-time employees and rather than operating plants, it expects all of its manufacturing to be done by third parties.

Wilson is hoping investors see the potential value in its treatments as the clinical trials move forward.

“It’s all about clinical execution to drive greater shareholder value,” he said.

ParkerVision drops one legal case

ParkerVision Inc. is another Jacksonville-based company that is seeking to capitalize on new technology, although its wireless technology has been under development for years with little financial gain to show for it.

Besides trying to line up partners for its technology, which ParkerVision says improves the performance of wireless devices, the company has also been seeking to recover damages with patent infringement lawsuits against several major manufacturers.

However, ParkerVision suffered a blow last week when it had to drop one of its legal actions.

ParkerVision said it filed a motion to terminate its case pending before the International Trade Commission, which alleged Qualcomm Inc., Apple Inc. and LG Electronics Inc. are illegally importing products into the U.S. using ParkerVision’s patented technology.

In a news release, ParkerVision said a recent ruling by an administrative law judge disallowed “key factual evidence” in the case, and it decided not to proceed.

The company is continuing to pursue patent infringement claims against those companies in U.S. federal courts.

“While we are disappointed that we were not allowed to present key evidence that could significantly impact the outcome of this (ITC) case, we believe the termination of these proceedings is the appropriate strategic decision for the company,” CEO Jeff Parker said in the news release.

“Our short-term and long-term strategic objectives remain on track. We will soon launch our new Wi-Fi product line,” Parker said.

The company says its Wi-Fi product, its first new consumer product in years, improves in-home Wi-Fi performance.

“Moreover, we remain steadfast on growing our international licensing program for our technologies, including those that are currently deployed without authorization in third-party products,” Parker said.

EverBank buyout gets one approval

Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, or TIAA, received one of the regulatory approvals it needs to complete its acquisition of Jacksonville-based EverBank Financial Corp.

EverBank said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last week the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency approved the merger of EverBank into TIAA’s bank subsidiary.

The merger still needs approval from the Federal Reserve Board, it said.

TIAA plans to keep the headquarters of the merged bank in Jacksonville. However, the company has still not said if it will keep the EverBank name or use a different name once the merger is complete.

TIAA’s bank is called TIAA-CREF Trust Co.

International Baler hurt by slow demand

International Baler Corp. reported a net loss of $39,413, or 1 cent a share, in the first quarter ended Jan. 31, as slow demand lowered sales.

The Jacksonville company makes balers used for recycling and waste disposal.

In the second half of calendar year 2016, the market for its products “was slowed due to lower prices for recycled materials such as cardboard and plastic,” the company said in its quarterly report filed with the SEC last week.

“At the current time prices for these commodities are improving,” it said.

However, the slow demand lowered sales by 37.5 percent to $2.24 million in the first quarter.

International Baler said sales were hurt by lower shipments of two-ram balers, which are its largest balers.

Fidelity lowers Del Frisco’s stake

Jacksonville-based Fidelity National Financial Inc. is known for making investments outside of its main business, title insurance, and has had a particular hunger for the restaurant industry.

However, an SEC filing last week showed Fidelity sold off a large chunk of one of its restaurant investments.

Fidelity had become the largest stockholder of Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group Inc. with 13 percent of the stock after buying up shares from October 2015 to February 2016.

Last week’s filing showed Fidelity sold off almost 1.9 million of its Del Frisco’s shares, reducing its stake to 4.96 percent.

Fidelity sold 682,441 shares in the open market and 1.2 million shares back to the company at an average price of $16.87 per share. The company had bought its Del Frisco’s shares at an average price of $14.53 each, so it did make a profit.

No reason was given for the sale, but Fidelity had previously said it bought the stock for investment purposes and did not show an interest in a management role at Del Frisco’s.

Fidelity owned the shares through its Fidelity National Financial Ventures unit, which the company is planning to spin off as an independent public company.

Del Frisco’s, based in Southlake, Texas, operates 53 restaurants in 24 states under the Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, Sullivan’s Steakhouse, and Del Frisco’s Grille brands.

Rayonier settles suit for $73 million

Rayonier Inc. last week said it reached an agreement to settle a securities class action lawsuit with a payment of $73 million.

The lawsuits were filed after the Jacksonville-based forest products and real estate company announced in November 2014 that it would have to restate two previous quarterly reports, because of a reclassification of some of its timber assets.

Five securities lawsuits were filed and consolidated into one case in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Jacksonville. The company and three former executives of Rayonier were defendants in the suit.

Rayonier said the payment will be funded by its directors and officers liability insurance carriers, but the company expects to incur about $740,000 in costs for its legal expenses in the case.

In a news release, CEO David Nunes said “settling the case at this time is in the best interests of the company and our shareholders. We look forward to putting this matter behind us and continuing to focus our time and attention on strategic initiatives to build long-term value for our shareholders.”

Separately last week, Rayonier announced it is acquiring an additional 95,100 acres of timberland in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina for $217 million.

The timber property, which is mostly near Savannah, Ga., will increase its Southeast coastal timberlands by about 15 percent, the company said.

Rayonier also announced a public stock sale of 5 million shares to help fund the timber acquisition. The company expects proceeds of about $139 million from the stock sale.

mbasch@jaxdailyrecord.com

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