Bonus BioGroup's Mysterious Rally

Biotech firm's market valuation went from NIS 17m to NIS 105m in a month.

Shares of Bonus BioGroup have jumped nearly sixfold in the space of just over one month, from a market value of NIS 17.8 million at the end of May to NIS 105 million, even after a sharp 19% drop yesterday.

The rally hashardly been disturbed by the "going concern" note that appears in the biotechnology company's financial reports.

A developer of bone regeneration technology, Bonus has not yet received approval from the Federal Drug Administration of the United States, nor has it reached profitability, adding another puzzle to the leap in its share price.

Bonus BioGroup's founding CEO Shai Meretzki owns 34% of the company, whose name was changed in May from Oceana Advanced Industries. Meretzki was a cofounder of Pluristem Therapeutics, which is trading at a market value of NIS 435 million.

The last thee days of trading have been dramtic even by Bonus' recent standards.

On Sunday, the stock soared 53% on turnover of NIS 18 million. On Monday trade in the company's shares accounted for NIS 53 million of the razor-thin NIS 676 million total trading volume on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, the second highest in the market. By way of comparison, trade in shares of Teva Pharmaceutical, with a market value of NIS 146 billion, reached just NIS 34 million in the same session.

Yesterday's plunge was on volume of NIS 19.6 million.

Monday's high volume might have been due to an annoucement in mid-afternoon by Bonus detailing the results of its private placement from the week before.

Confused investors, mistakenly thinking it was an additional placement at significantly below the market price - the share price in the placement was 48 agorot, while at the time of the announcement the price exceeded NIS 1.00 - caused the share price to bounce up and down. It ranged between a gain of 31% to a delcine of 25% down before settling on a 4% rise at close.

BioGroup said it was all a misunderstanding. "The company's lawyers made an error in the [original] to the stock exchnage, which had to be corrected and resubmitted."

Regarding the "going concern" note in the company's financial reports, a spokesman for Bonus said such notes were not unusual for biotech companies that go public in order to raise funds.

The note, included in the company's financial report for the first quarter, expressed concerns about its ability to meet its busines targets for the year with the funds it has available.

Market players are casting about for answers as to why Bonus has enjoyed such a steep rise.

In comments made when Bonus was trading at a market value of just NIS 20 million, Shlomo Meir of DBM Investment House pointed to the fact that the stock was attracting the attention of foreign investors, who saw it as one example of an undeervalued Israeli share. More recently, he posited that the high trading volumes suggests that day traders have had a lot to do with the share's performance.

Other observers spoke of front-running by traders in the ultra-Orthodox community. An investment adviser in the Geula branch of the Bank of Jerusalem - located in a religious neighborhood - confirmed that a number of Haredi players hold shares in Bonus, but he rejected suggestions of unusual purchases.

Nevertheless, he pointed ou that several Haredi investors had bought into the company prior to the recent rises.