AEterna Zentaris Inc. (USA) (NASDAQ:AEZS) announced today that the special committee of independent directors (the “Strategic Review Committee”) has engaged a consulting firm and a financial advisor to assist in its efforts. As previously announced, the Strategic Review Committee has been tasked to consider and evaluate various strategic and financing alternatives available to the Company to maximize shareholder value, including continuing to execute on its existing business plan and/or considering and recommending changes to the Company’s management and governance.
Both selected firms have well regarded reputations in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and life sciences sectors. The Strategic Review Committee retained these firms in part to validate the commercial potential of Macrilien™ in order to determine the best means of maximizing value, which includes evaluating and recommending modes of distribution including entering into partnerships or building an internal sales force, raising capital including through an investment from a strategic partner, or selling some or all of the company and its assets.
As shareholders are also aware, the board of directors of the Company (the “Board”) recently appointed Michael Ward as the Company’s Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Ward and the Board have quickly aligned on the Company’s priorities, including ensuring that the Company’s expenditures are focused on the greatest risk-adjusted opportunities for shareholders including Macrilien™.
Mr. Ward has taken steps to reduce and rationalize overhead over the next several months, including reducing or eliminating expenses, resources and overhead that were associated with the Company’s discontinued Zoptrex™ product. Mr. Ward has also assumed the role of Managing Director of Frankfurt operations and in that role, he implemented a restructuring plan, reaching an agreement with the local “Works Council” to support the realignment of resources focused on Macrilien™. The Company has also eliminated an executive position in South Carolina. These efforts are expected to result in significant net savings to the Company.
The Board welcomes Mr. Ward’s fresh perspective on the Company’s future plans and his readiness to execute on those plans.
The Board and the Strategic Review Committee will also consider certain enhancements that have been under discussion at the Board for the last several months. These include ensuring that the Board has the commensurate mix of skills and experience to guide the Company in the execution of its business plan and has individuals who reflect a diversity of backgrounds including gender diversity. The Board has also discussed formally adopting a director share ownership requirement to ensure an even greater level of alignment with shareholders. Currently, Board compensation is split between cash and equity consideration, a best practice the Board adopted some time ago.
There can be no assurance that evaluation of strategic alternatives will result in any transaction being pursued, entered into or consummated. The Company does not intend to make further comment in regard to this process except as required by applicable securities laws or the policies of NASDAQ and the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Shares of Aeterna Zentaris closed today at $1.82, down $0.08 or -4.21%. AEZS has a 1-year high of $5.59 and a 1-year low of $0.78. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $1.45 and its 200-day moving average is $2.10.
On the ratings front, AEZS stock has been the subject of a number of recent research reports. In a report issued on July 24, Maxim analyst Jason Kolbert reiterated a Buy rating on AEZS, with a price target of $4.00, which represents a potential upside of 120% from where the stock is currently trading. On July 5, H.C. Wainwright’s Swayampakula Ramakanth reiterated a Buy rating on the stock and has a price target of $3.00.
According to TipRanks.com, which ranks over 7,500 financial analysts and bloggers to gauge the performance of their past recommendations, Jason Kolbert and Swayampakula Ramakanth have a yearly average loss of -13.9% and -10.0% respectively. Kolbert has a success rate of 31% and is ranked #4587 out of 4628 analysts, while Ramakanth has a success rate of 30% and is ranked #4537.
Æterna Zentaris, Inc. operates as a specialty biopharmaceutical company that is engaged in developing and commercializing novel treatments in oncology, endocrinology and women’s health. The company’s pipeline encompasses compounds at all stages of development, from drug discovery through to marketed products. It focuses on the development of Perifosine, Cetrotide, Ozarelix, AEZS-108 and AEZS-130.