Martek gains $14 million in its first public offering


Martek Biosciences Corp., a Columbia biotechnology company, raised almost $14 million in an initial public offering yesterday, far less than the company had originally hoped.

It was a victory nonetheless for a company with no earnings and a stock market tepid toward the biotech industry in general, according to analysts and industry executives.

"The fact that they got it done is pretty good," said Prudential Securities analyst Joseph Edelman.

"Actually we're quite pleased," said Martek Chief Financial Officer Steve Dubin. "You know, it's a very tough biotech market."

Martek, which makes several products from microalgae -- including a drug that, when added to infant formulas, might make babies smarter -- lost $5 million between 1989 and 1992 and an additional $1.6 million in the nine months that ended July 31.

The company had hoped to sell between 2.7 million and 3.1 million shares, priced between $10 and $12 a share, according to a registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission a month ago. The expected price was later dropped to a range of $8.50 to $10.

But after waiting several days to go to market, yesterday's offering was priced at $7 a share by the lead underwriter, Hambrecht & Quist Inc., and 2 million shares were sold.

Martek now has 7.75 million shares outstanding, most held by company insiders and venture capital firms. Yesterday's public sale of stock amounted to nearly 26 percent of the company, not including stock options and placed a market value of $54.25 million for Martek. The stock traded as high as $7.75 a share early in the day, but closed back down at $7.

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