Cell Therapeutics Has Strange Timing

Cell Therapeutics has raised $30 million just a month prior to an important Food and Drug Administration meeting on its lymphoma drug pixantrone.
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Cell Therapeutics

(CTIC) - Get Report

picked a very strange time to raise more money and further dilute its shareholders.

Just one month ahead of a critically important Food and Drug Administration meeting on its lymphoma drug pixantrone, Cell Therapeutics raised $30 million through the sale of preferred stock and warrants, the company announced late Wednesday.

Cell Therapeutics shares fell nearly 12% to $1.17 in midday trading Thursday. Prior to the disclosure of the stock deal, Cell Therapeutics shares closed up 14% on heavy volume during the regular trading session.

The financing raises all kinds of questions -- none of which should be comforting to Cell Therapeutics' largely retail investor shareholder base.

If Cell Therapeutics CEO Jim Bianco was confident about a positive recommendation for approval of pixantrone from the experts at the Feb. 10 meeting of the FDA's advisory committee, why would he raise money now?

Presumably, Bianco could raise even more money and with less dilution at a higher stock price following a positive pixantrone meeting.

Or this: Is Cell Therapeutics aware that FDA has significant problems with the pixantrone data, enough for the agency to be leaning towards rejecting the drug's approval?

Between 14 and 21 business days before an advisory committee meeting, the FDA provides the agency's drug review to the drug sponsor, according to FDA spokeswoman Karen Riley.

In other words, Cell Therapeutics will know what the FDA reviewers think about pixantrone in advance of the Feb. 10 advisory panel. If you take a look at a calendar, Cell Therapeutics could have been in possession of the FDA's pixantrone briefing documents as early as Tuesday.

Cell Therapeutics spokesman Dan Eramian says the company hasn't yet received the FDA's pixantrone review. I'll take Eramian at his word. After all, Bianco would be criminally stupid (or criminal


stupid) if he tried to raise money while in possession of material information pertaining to pixantrone.

But Bianco is also very smart, so he knows the FDA's pixantrone review will arrive on his Seattle desk soon. That meant he had to raise money fast before he was locked up.

Two institutional investors were willing to step up and buy Cell Therapeutics stock ahead of the FDA advisory panel. Isn't that a sign of confidence?

Perhaps, but not likely. Rodman & Renshaw, the banker on the deal, tends not to have long-term investors, but more traders and flippers, in its Rolodex. The buyers of the preferred stock in this deal can convert to common stock at any time. They'll flip the stock in the open market for a quick profit and keep the free warrants they received as a sweetener.

Cell Therapeutics had a bit less than 587 million shares outstanding at the end of November. Tuesday's financing adds another 34 million shares to that total.

-- Reported by Adam Feuerstein in San Francisco.

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