Pontifax sells portion of Protalix stake

Pontifax sold a quarter of its holding for $13.9 million.

Pontifax Fund LP has sold part of its holding in Protalix Biotherapeutics Inc. (AMEX:PLX). Pontifax general partner and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (Nasdaq: TEVA; TASE: TEVA) chairman Eli Hurvitz is also chairman of Protalix. So far as is known, he did not sell shares that he owns personally.

Protalix is developing genetically engineered proteins from plant cells. The company's lead product is a treatment for Gaucher's disease. Protalix closed at $10.71 on Friday on the American Stock Exchange, giving a market cap of $827 million. The share has risen 482% since the beginning of the year, making it one of the hottest Israeli companies traded on Wall Street.

Protalix recently successfully completed the Phase III clinical trial of its Gaucher's disease drug, and it hopes to sign a large distribution agreement for it and begin marketing in a few months.

Pontifax sold 1,372,266 Protalix shares for $13.9 million. A few months ago, Teva vice chairman Phillip Frost and Marathon Venture Capital Fund (TASE: MARA) sold Protalix shares. Frost sold shares for $19 million at $6.06-7.12 per share, compared with Friday's high of $11.33 and low of $10.14.

Pontifax owns 8% of Protalix, and sold a quarter of its holding. The prices at which it bought the shares five years ago are a fraction of the current share price, and Pontifax has made a capital gain of tens of millions of dollars.

Pontifax said that it would use proceeds from the sale of the shares to cover a tax levy, and this is presumably part of the reason. It could also be that Pontifax decided that Protalix's current share price is not at all bad.

Most analysts covering Protalix estimate its value at $800-900 million, and it is hard to find anyone giving a "Sell" recommendation.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 16, 2009

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2009

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