Protalix Slides on Gaucher Drug Delay Concerns: Israel Overnight

Protalix BioTherapeutics Inc. fell the most in 10 weeks in New York as the Israeli company’s bid to raise $24 million selling shares sparked speculation they’re not expecting to win approval for a Gaucher disease treatment.

Carmiel, Israel-based Protalix sank 11 percent to $5.45 yesterday, the most since Dec. 6, and led declines on the Bloomberg Israel-US 25 Index of the largest Israeli companies listed in New York, which retreated 1.2 percent to 91.49. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., the world’s largest maker of generic drugs, fell the most in a month.

Protalix, which is developing a protein known as taliglucerase alfa using plant cells to replace an enzyme missing in people who have Gaucher disease, will sell 4.5 million shares for $5.25 apiece next week, according to a Globe Newswire statement issued yesterday. The U.S Food & Drug Administration delayed on Dec. 6 a decision on approving Protalix’s treatment for sale until May 2012.

“The company is two and a half months before an expected approval from the FDA, why are they raising funds,” Steven Tepper, an analyst at Harel Finance Ltd., said by phone from Tel Aviv. “The message that the company is sending is that the FDA approval may be delayed again or that they won’t get it.”

E-mails and phone calls to Marcy Nanus from The Trout Group LLC, an external investor-relations company that represents Protalix, weren’t immediately returned.

Protalix is planning a stock offering that is expected to close on Feb. 22, the company said. The proceeds will be used to fund clinical trials.

‘Another Delay’

Pfizer Inc., the world’s largest drugmaker, paid $60 million for rights to taliglucerase in November 2009 and promised Protalix an additional $55 million should the drug pass certain regulatory hurdles. New York-based Pfizer is entitled to 60 percent of taliglucerase’s revenue under the agreement.

Shares of Protalix fell 13 percent in the U.S. on Dec. 6 after the FDA postponed its decision on the drugs.

“It looks like the company doesn’t want to take a chance that there will be another delay,” Harel Finance’s Tepper said.

Gaucher disease, which can cause fat to build up in the liver, spleen, bone marrow and nervous system, affects about one in every 50,000 to 100,000 people, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Protalix shares in Tel Aviv were unchanged yesterday at 23.20 shekels, or the equivalent of $6.18.

Allot Communications Ltd., an Israeli maker of high-speed networking equipment, climbed 7.8 percent to $17.47 yesterday, after its stock in Tel Aviv gained 2 percent to 61.38 shekels, or the equivalent of $16.29.

‘Strongly Positioned’

“Business momentum remains solid,” Ittai Kidron, an analyst at Oppenheimer Holdings Inc., wrote in an e-mailed report yesterday. “Allot is strongly positioned to benefit” from mobile companies’ expansion, he said.

Israel, whose population of 7.8 million is similar in size to Switzerland’s, has about 60 companies listed on Nasdaq, the most of any country outside North America after China. The nation is also home to more startup companies per capita than the U.S.

Teva dropped the most since Jan. 11 in New York, retreating 2 percent to $44.15. Shares of the Petach Tikva, Israel-based company climbed 1.4 percent in Tel Aviv to 170.20 shekels, or the equivalent of $45.39.

The U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products regulatory agency has suspended the license of a hypothyroidism treatment made by Teva, citing manufacturing difficulties, according to an e-mailed statement from the agency yesterday.

MagicJack, Orckit

MagicJack VocalTec Ltd., the Israeli company whose founders invented the technology used to make phone calls over the Internet, rose to the highest level since May 2006, surging 3.6 percent to $19.49.

The Netanya, Israel-based company said it will beat the average analyst estimates for first-quarter profit and sales in 2012, according to a Globe Newswire statement distributed yesterday. MagicJack will probably post a 20 percent and 4 percent premium to average analyst estimates for income and revenue respectively, the statement said.

Orckit Communications Ltd., a telecommunications equipment maker, slumped to the lowest level on record, dropping 25 percent to 54 cents in New York after its Tel Aviv shares sank 27 percent to 2.06 shekels, or 55 cents.

The Tel Aviv-based company reached an agreement with bondholders that includes swapping debt for stock at a lower price than the share, according to a Globe Newswire statement.

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