If shares of Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO) were to cliff dive from their current price of $12.48 per share to $1, that would amount to a) a decline of more than 90% in INO stock; b) the biggest such investor travesty for a company in the hunt to produce a novel coronavirus vaccine; and c) a remarkable news story. And to be clear, the Philadelphia-area biotech firm appears safe from such a fate for the foreseeable future.
But those who know their investment ABCs will tell you that one noteworthy activist short seller is betting on an Inovio dollar-share debacle. Andrew Left, editor for Citron Research, didn’t exactly mince words in an April 27 report “Bad Blood: The COVID-19 Version of Theranos: Target Price $1.” (The now-defunct Theranos fraudulently claimed it could perform multiple tests from a drop of blood.)
Here are some choice lines from the 12-page investor broadside, which I read with astonishment:
- “Inovio shareholders have been ‘Theranosed’ and the SEC should immediately halt this blatant stock promotion.”
- “Simply put, the management team at Inovio is a group of charlatans.”
- “Inovio is guilty of issuing highly misleading information to pump the company’s stock price. … In the case of COVID-19, they are taking advantage of retail investors while they’re stuck in quarantine.”
Ouch. Yes, Citron uses some over-the-top verbiage to slam Inovio stock. But in the case of the Covid-19 vaccine race, slash-and-burn hyperbole beats a suspect hypodermic any day. And so we present, the upshot, down shot and my best shot at getting to bottom of it all.
INO Stock at a (Sideways) Glance
Since Sept. 16, Inovio has lost a third of its value; over 2020 as a whole, though, it has nearly tripled in