May 28 (Bloomberg) -- Biological warfare defense firms Siga Technologies Inc. and PharmAthene Inc. rose after a court upheld Siga’s liability over a disputed smallpox-medicine licensing agreement while throwing out a potential multibillion-dollar damages ruling for PharmAthene.
The Delaware Supreme Court’s May 24 decision prompted Siga to rise as much as 9.3 percent to $4 today in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. PharmAthene surged as much as 38 percent to $2.20 on the New York Stock Exchange.
The state’s highest court upheld a judge’s 2011 finding that Siga violated promises to negotiate in good faith over a license for ST-246, an antiviral drug for use in case of a biological attack. The appeals court also ordered the judge to reconsider the amount of damages PharmAthene can recover.
Siga executives’ bad-faith negotiations were prompted by “seller’s remorse” over giving up control of “what was looking more and more like a multibillion-dollar drug,” Chief Justice Myron Steele wrote in a 42-page ruling.
Delaware Chancery Court Judge Donald Parsons will now have to reassess how much in “contract-expectation damages” PharmAthene may recover from Siga for violating promises to properly negotiate the licensing agreement, Steele said.
Siga climbed 4.6 percent to $3.83 at 9:52 a.m. in New York, valuing the company at $199.6 million. PharmAthene gained 26 percent to $2.01, boosting its market value to $99.4 million.
“We are pleased by this positive decision from the Delaware Supreme Court,” Eric Richman, PharmAthene’s president and chief executive officer, said in a May 26 e-mailed statement. “We look forward to final resolution of the case.”
Siga officials said in a May 26 statement that they will argue before Parsons that PharmAthene’s contract-expectation damage claims are flawed.
“PharmAthene’s evidence of expectancy damages is speculative and too uncertain, contingent, and conjectural to permit an award,” William Haynes II, Siga’s general counsel, said in an e-mailed statement.
PharmAthene, a developer of biological and chemical defense products based in Annapolis, Maryland, sued New York-based competitor Siga in 2006, claiming it had a licensing agreement for the medicine. PharmAthene’s attorneys argued it should share in as much as $5 billion in potential sales, mostly from government contracts for ST-246.
Parsons ruled in 2011 that PharmAthene was entitled to 50 percent of profit from sales of ST-246 once Siga earned a profit of $40 million because of Siga executives’ bad-faith negotiations over the licensing agreement.
Siga officials said last year that the company won a five-year U.S. government contract for 2 million doses of ST-246 in a deal that could be worth as much as $2.8 billion.
In its lawsuit, PharmAthene argued it had a claim to ST-246’s profits because it helped fund the drug’s development and Siga reneged on promises to grant a licensing agreement.
Lawyers for Siga argued at trial the licensing talks were never completed and documents outlining proposed terms were marked as “non-binding.” A PharmAthene official said in court that the heading was left on the documents by mistake.
PharmAthene’s attorneys argued during a two-week trial that Siga was running out of money to develop ST-246 in late 2005 when it proposed a merger or license agreement.
PharmAthene executives ultimately loaned Siga $3 million to keep the drug’s development going while the two companies negotiated, according to court testimony. PharmAthene claimed that ex-Siga Chairman Donald Drapkin guaranteed the companies would either merge or Siga would grant PharmAthene a license for the medicine.
Drapkin, a former executive of billionaire Ronald Perelman’s MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc. holding company, countered during the trial that he never promised PharmAthene officials a license.
The terms sheet relied upon by PharmAthene’s lawyers as evidence of a contract between the two firms was intended as a “jumping off point” for negotiations if merger talks faltered, Drapkin said.
The Delaware appeals court upheld Parsons’ finding that the term sheet and other evidence in the case showed Drapkin and other Siga executives agreed to hold good-faith negotiations over the licensing agreement.
Although the term sheet “is not signed and contains a footer on each page stating” it contains nonbinding terms, the combination with other agreements covering loans and a potential merger made it an enforceable contract, the Supreme Court found.
The case is Siga Technologies v. PharmAthene, 12-00314, Delaware Supreme Court. The Chancery Court case is PharmAthene Inc. v. Siga Technologies Inc., CA2627, Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington).
To contact the reporters on this story: Jef Feeley in Wilmington, Delaware at firstname.lastname@example.org; Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at email@example.com; Phil Milford in Wilmington, Delaware at firstname.lastname@example.org
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