A Tale of Two Companies

I honestly can’t recall the moment I felt compelled to bastardise Dickens. I suspect that it has been a gradual accumulation of neural triggers, little seismic bursts of thought association that gradually – over thousands of words – build into a tsunami of recognition that eventually crushes the civilisation of the mind.

Thought association. Hmmmm.

Was it the “French” in Peter French? The misleading and manipulative utterances of Novogen’s aristocracy, not just once or twice but with certain and arrogant frequency? Perhaps it is the growing resentment and rabid flashing of punter’s incisors on HotCopper, representing the disillusioned rise against the oppression of a corrupt and privileged class. The cyclic defeat of Benitec’s 3rd attempt at a NASDAQ debut, spanning Sydney and New York, two New World cities in time and space, keeping us at the edge of our seat? Perhaps it was the poignant and disturbing relevance of my favourite passage to the cyclically underwhelming “fruit” of the ASX :

“Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seeds of rapacious licence and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.”

Whatever it was, it happened. Perhaps it is just the sheer drama of it all.

We are witness to a Revolution in Australian bioscience that Dickens would have intrinsically recognised. A central theme in A Tale of Two Cities is that of death and resurrection. Not death as merely a natural and biological inevitability, but death as the agonising atonement for the sins of a lifetime. This is truly Benitec’s plight and its suffering through a (now) 3rd attempt at a NASDAQ debut* is the necessary consequence of the contempt with which it holds its shareholders, the belief that the conquest of foreign shores will somehow vindicate the company’s entitlement to greatness despite years of under performance. Peter’s “Bastille” has never seemed quite so vulnerable, and anyhow what true revolutionary would so openly covet the material incarnations of success?

Novogen on the other hand represents the opportunity of resurrection and a better life after revolution. We may yet find, like Dickens’ Sydney Carton, that Graham Kelly’s “shove” from grace is nothing more than a deserving martyrdom for the Triaxial shenanigans and the peddling of little more than snakeoil. In time, the name “Anisina” may serve as a fitting epitaph to a scorched and acrid-smelling epoch of the company’s existence. Frankly, the only viable phoenix manoeuvre for Novogen is to endure the inevitable and necessary guillotine to its pipeline, to rise up to a new beginning, cashed up and devoted to patients and shareholders once again.

 “I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out…”

Certainly the Revolution will have its undeserving martyrs, but both organisations will need to show their commitment to reform through an active and decisive change of leadership. It is my prediction that Benitec’s woes the past few weeks mark the downward trajectory of a company that will ultimately implode in the coming months. Shareholders should not interpret Benitec’s NASDAQ failure as anything other than a sophisticated market’s reaction to a technology that is no longer viewed as transformational, and a lead program that will have negligible clinical impact by the time it is ready (assuming it works). It should also be received as a vote of no confidence in the management team, however courageously it may have toiled.

Both companies will also have to understand that the Revolution has many activists, not just this unimportant and unarmed scribe. Novogen would be truly delusional to believe that it has the luxury of time or the freedom to deliberate its future. It most certainly does not. The vainqueurs de la Bastille are circling. The window to act with responsibility, integrity and decisiveness, is incredibly short. For a mere $5-6m, the right player is going to control $40m of balance sheet “governed” by a weak and compromised management team. That kind of leverage makes Novogen a certain target, and there will be the proverbial executions out the front of the Hôtel de Ville .

Ever been kicked?
Might have been.
Frequently? No.
Ever kicked down stairs?
Decidedly not; once received a kick at the top of a staircase, and fell down stairs of his own accord.”

Iain, perhaps it is safer to take the elevator for a while…



*on increasingly undesirable terms – terms incidentally, that I exactly reported to shareholders a week ago, but for which I only received ridicule.

5 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Companies

  1. Pingback: No Delirium in Adherium | The Long Tail

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