Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. (OMEX), the deep-ocean salvage company that has recovered millions of dollars of precious metals from shipwrecks, plunged the most in two years after short seller Meson Capital Partners LLC said it will run out of cash.
Odyssey fell 25 percent to $2.14 at 3:29 p.m. in New York. The Tampa, Florida-based company earlier dropped 34 percent, the most intraday since September 2011.
“The purpose of OMEX is to serve as a vehicle for OMEX insiders to live a life of glamor hunting the ocean while disappointed investors foot the bill,” Ryan J. Morris, managing partner at San Francisco-based Meson, said today in a 66-page report, referring to Odyssey by its stock symbol. Meson has a share-price target of zero.
Odyssey has lost an average of $20 million a year for five years and is unlikely to be able to repay its debts, Morris said. Odyssey will be forced to file for bankruptcy protection in six to 12 months if it can’t raise equity, he said.
Odyssey said it has contacted market authorities about the report and is considering legal action against Meson and Morris.
“The text is filled with lies, false statements, and misleading allegations,” Laura Lionetti Barton, an Odyssey spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement. “We believe this is a clear attempt to manipulate the market.”
According to the report, Meson was founded in 2009 and is an activist investor that seeks to turn around “faltering” companies.
Morris, 29, said today in a telephone interview that the report is his first as a short seller.
“I’m better known for being an activist on the long side,” he said.
Short sellers borrow shares to sell with the hope of profiting by buying them back at a cheaper price.
Odyssey last year recovered 48 tons of silver from a World War II shipwreck three miles (4.8 kilometers) beneath the Atlantic Ocean.
Meson said new regulations by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, known as UNESCO, that protect national gravesites and heritage make Odyssey’s shipwreck hunting “unviable.” It also said Odyssey’s undersea mineral-exploration business is “a pipedream and worth zero.”
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