San Diego Biotech Firms Led Local Stocks in 1991

SAN DIEGO COUNTY BUSINESS EDITOR

Biotechnology issues were at the vanguard of San Diego's leading stock gainers in 1991, while financial institutions led the losers.

The star of stars among local stocks was Gensia Pharmaceuticals, a company that is developing drugs for heart patients. The company saw its shares soar to close 1991 at $52, up from $9.375 at the end of 1990. The company took advantage of its high share price to hold two public stock offerings over the year that raised $120 million in equity capital.

Gensia vice president Martha Hough said Thursday that two key events were responsible for the stock's advance. Last January, Gensia acquired Kendall-McGaw Pharmaceuticals for $15 million, giving it a manufacturing facility and a revenue stream, elevating it above the status of a purely research and development firm, she said.

Also, Gensia began final clinical tests of Arasine, its potential blockbuster drug that may control cardiovascular damage to patients during coronary bypass surgery. The drug, whose potential market has been estimated at $200 to $400 million, may stand for formal Food and Drug Administration review this year and be on the market in 1993 if the tests and review are successful.

Not far behind in stock price appreciation was Immune Response, whose shares rose to $39.25 from $2.875, a jump fueled by investor interest in the company's AIDS therapeutic drug now in clinical trials. The drug has shown promise in impeding the development of full-blown AIDS in HIV-positive patients. The company, co-founded by Jonas Salk, also held two stock offerings over the year that raised a total of $74.7 million.

Another big gainer was Molecular Biosystems, whose shares more than doubled to close at $36.50 from the $16.75 close the previous year. The company's contrast imaging agent called Albunex edged closer to a possible FDA approval. The agent, used in an ultrasound procedure called echocardiography, could prove to be an effective diagnostic tool for patients with heart ailments and other maladies.

The company filed its pre-market application for approval of Albunex last May and hopes to receive an FDA panel review of the product over the next six months. If the review is successful, Albunex may reach the market by 1993, a company spokeswoman said. If approved, the agent would be distributed by Mallinckrodt Medical of St Louis.

Also leaping in value was Alliance Pharmaceutical stock, which nearly tripled in value over the year to close at $29.25. The company is developing imaging agents and temporary blood substitutes. Key events over the year included the commencement of FDA-sanctioned clinical trials of its Imagent BP, an imaging agent developed for use in the diagnosis of various cancers.

The strength in the equity markets allowed Alliance Pharmaceutical to raise $67 million in an October stock offering. The company expects to begin clinical trials of Oxygent HT, a temporary red-blood-cell substitute, in early 1992.

The largest gain in absolute dollars posted by a non-biomedical stock in 1991 was by Mail Boxes Etc., the San Diego-based franchise network of mail receiving outlets. Mail Boxes Etc. shares vaulted to $34 at the end of 1991, up from $19 at the close of 1990. Over 1991, the chain received permission to begin selling franchises in Mexico and Spain, and recently sold its 1,700th franchise.

Among the losers, PS Group saw its shares lose $7.75, the most in value in terms of absolute dollars of any local stock. The company was hit by bankruptcies of three of the airlines to which it leases aircraft. The company was also hit by environmental problems at its Recontek subsidiary, a processor of toxic metal wastes.

Medical Imaging Centers of America, owner and operator of X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging and other diagnostic equipment in hospitals and clinics, saw its shares drop to $4 from $11.50 over the year. The fall was attributed partly to losses brought on by restructuring costs and to an increasingly unfavorable climate for insurance reimbursement of magnetic resonance imaging tests, which account for a significant share of MICA's revenues.

First National Corp., parent of First National Bank, fell to $5.625 from the previous year's close of $13.125 as it disclosed a growing portfolio of bad business loans. The shares of HomeFed Bank's parent fell to $.44 a share from $5 as the savings and loan became insolvent during 1991 and teetered on the brink of a government takeover.

1991's Winners and Losers Biotechnology stocks led gainers among San Diego based companies in 1991 trading while financial institutions led the losers. Chart includes only those stocks that have traded for a year or more. Big gainers

Company: 12/31/90 close 12/31/91 close Gain Per Share Gensia Pharmaceuticals $9.38 $52.00 $42.62 Immune Response $2.88 $39.25 $36.38 Molecular Biosytems $16.75 $36.50 $19.75 Alliance Pharmaceutical $10.50 $29.25 $18.75 Mail Boxes Etc. $19.00 $34.00 $15.00 Agouron Pharmaceuticals $6.00 $20.75 $14.75 Price Co. $38.75 $50.25 $11.50 Advanced Tissue Sciences $3.96 $15.00 $11.04 (formerly Marrow-Tech) GTI Corp. $2.12 $10.25 $8.12 Infrasonics $2.06 $10.25 $8.19 Psicor $10.00 $16.75 $6.75 Beeba's Creations $4.00 $10.50 $6.50 WD-40 $25.00 $31.25 $6.25 Sym-Tek Systems $7.50 $13.50 $6.00 Rohr $16.38 $21.12 $4.75

Big Losers:

Company 12/31/90 close 12/31/91 close PS Group $38.00 $30.25 Medical Imaging Centers $11.50 $4.00 First National Corp. $13.12 $5.62 HomeFed Corp. $5.00 $.44 ENB Holding $18.00 $15.00 BSD Bancorp $6.62 $3.75 San Diego National Bancorp $8.00 $5.50

Company $Loss Per Share PS Group $7.75 Medical Imaging Centers $7.50 First National Corp. $7.50 HomeFed Corp. $4.56 ENB Holding $3.00 BSD Bancorp $2.88 San Diego National Bancorp $2.50

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