GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Col. ( TheStreet) -- A recent promotional blitz that has sent shares of Ampio Pharmaceuticals (AMPIO) soaring appears to be timed well to coincide with the expiration of lockups that will allow company's executives and insiders to sell millions of shares of stock for big profits.
The expiration of these these stock-sale lockups at the end of June and in two weeks on July 15 cover nearly one-third of Ampio's outstanding shares.
My best guess: Ampio is pumping out press releases at a rapid clip to promote itself -- and compensating outsider writers who publish glowing articles -- just so retail investors and momentum traders will buy stock at rapidly escalating prices from insiders all too willing to sell. Ampio has also tried to push the company's stock price higher by urging shareholders to stop their brokers from lending out Ampio shares for short sales.Ampio shares were up 14% to $5.78 Monday, having already in value over the past two months. Eight Ampio-issued press releases since late April have helped, as have 17 articles published by Seeking Alpha, all heaping praise on the company. One author is responsible for seven of the Ampio articles published on Seeking Alpha despite admitting that Ampio recently paid for his airfare to visit the company’s headquarters and that he wishes to be hired as an Ampio spokesperson. As long as Ampio shares keep moving higher, investors don't seem to care that the company's drug pipeline is highly speculative and already showing signs of clinical failure. This party may end, however, once Ampio insiders start selling stock by the truckload. On July 15, Ampio executives, directors and other insiders will be free to sell 8.25 million shares of company stock, according to the company's regulatory filings. These shares have been largely locked up since last year. On Saturday, June 30, a separate lock-up agreement covering 8.4 million shares of Ampio controlled by shareholders of owned by DMI BioSciences also expired, according to regulatory filings. Ampio acquired DMI BioSciences last year in an all-stock deal that brought with it the experimental premature ejaculation drug Zertane. Ampio's regulatory filings do not make it clear how much, if any, overlap exists between the shares covered by the two expiring lock up periods. Regardless, within two weeks, Ampio insiders will be free to sell millions of shares of stock to retail investors at inflated prices. --Written by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.
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