TapImmune announces merger, relocation

Company with small Jacksonville presence moving HQ to Houston.
By: 
May. 21, 2018

Jacksonville-based pharmaceutical research company TapImmune Inc. last week announced a merger that will result in a name change and a relocation of its corporate office.

TapImmune agreed to a merger of equals with Marker Therapeutics Inc. in which stockholders of publicly traded TapImmune and privately owned Marker will each end up with 50 percent of the combined company.

Marker is headquartered in Minnesota but has a relationship with the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. As TapImmune establishes an alliance with Baylor, it will move its headquarters to Houston, the company said.

TapImmune, which has been developing immunotherapy treatments for cancer, moved its headquarters from Seattle to Jacksonville in 2015 when it began trials of a breast cancer treatment at the Mayo Clinic.

The company has maintained a small office in Downtown Jacksonville and has seven employees, according to its annual report.

TapImmune CEO Peter Hoang will continue as chief executive of the merged company, which will have a new name that has not yet been announced.

Marker, like TapImmune, is developing cancer therapies.

“I believe that the new therapies we are acquiring with Marker in this transaction represent the next major leap forward in cell therapy for cancer,” Hoang said in a news release.

TapImmune, which currently has 10.7 million outstanding shares of stock and 7 million warrants and options to buy stock, will issue an equal number of shares and warrants to Marker stockholders to complete the 50-50 merger.

TapImmune’s shares have been trading near $3 recently.

The companies expect to complete the merger in the second half of this year.

Convergys said in merger talks

TapImmune has never been a major employer in Jacksonville, but another company that has been a significant local job provider could be headed for a merger.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Convergys Corp. “is in talks with several parties” about a potential buyout of the Cincinnati-based provider of customer service functions.

Convergys has a Jacksonville customer service center that originally was formed in 1983 as a subsidiary of AT&T to handle shareholder services for the court-ordered breakup of AT&T.

That business, called American Transtech, employed more than 4,000 people in Jacksonville at its peak. Under Convergys’ ownership, employment at the business has fluctuated widely as contracts have been won and lost, but has been closer to 1,000 in recent years.

JAXUSA Partnership reported its Jacksonville employment at 700 in late 2017.

The Journal, citing “people familiar with the matter,” said Convergys is looking at potential buyers because of the pending retirement of CEO Andrea Ayers.

The company also could decide to remain independent and hire a new CEO, the newspaper said.

That report sent Convergys’ stock up as much as $3.28 to $25.74 on May 11, but merger rumors seemed to be cooling off in the middle of last week.

“We haven’t had calls recently from private equity firms, and aren’t sure who a logical strategic buyer could be,” Robert W. Baird analyst David Koning said in a research note Wednesday.

Koning also said a report on website Dealreporter “indicated limited interest from potential buyers.”

Dick’s Wings parent revenue up, store count down

ARC Group Inc., operator of the Dick’s Wings & Grill restaurant chain, reported higher revenue in the first quarter, but also indicated the size of the chain was reduced.

The company said it now has 15 Dick’s restaurants in Florida and five in Georgia, down from 17 in Florida at the end of 2017. It did not provide any information about closed restaurants.

ARC Group said revenue in the first quarter rose 14 percent to $1.25 million. However, adjusted earnings fell 66 percent to $76,364, or 1 cent a share.

The company’s quarterly report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission said the lower earnings resulted from higher restaurant operating costs, employee compensation and other expenses.

ParkerVision reported a drop in sales of its Wi-Fi product, Milo.

ParkerVision sales drop after launch of new product

ParkerVision Inc. has been promising increasing sales for its in-home Wi-Fi product Milo, which launched last fall.

However, the Jacksonville-based company last week reported first-quarter sales were lower than the fourth quarter.

Total revenue for ParkerVision, which had no revenue before introducing Milo, was $77,000 in the first quarter, down from $100,000 in the fourth quarter.

The company had an adjusted net loss of $3.5 million, or 15 cents a share, in the first quarter.

During the company’s quarterly conference call last week, CEO Jeff Parker said the company will be ramping up marketing spending for Milo. The plans include partnering with a direct sales and marketing firm and a national media campaign in the third quarter.

“Until now, our marketing dollars have really been like throwing a pebble into an ocean,” Parker said.

“We are now quickly moving towards throwing a boulder into a lake, where we believe we will see the kind of revenue growth that will create a sustainable business opportunity for Milo,” he said.

While it tries to increase sales, ParkerVision also continues with several legal actions against major electronics manufacturers alleging they infringed on the company’s patented wireless technology.

Parker said he attended a conference on patent legislation in Washington, D.C., and saw bipartisan support from Congress for tougher patent protection laws, which he thinks will help his company.

“I came away with a strong feeling that the winds are finally shifting,” he said.

Duos Technologies sees revenue jump

Duos Technologies Group Inc. last week reported first-quarter revenue rose 11 percent to $1.1 million, but because of contracts in backlog, it is projecting total revenue of at least $9.3 million for all of 2018.

“With recent multimillion-dollar awards in two of our target market segments, we now not only have validation for our entries into those industries, but we have also created the foundation to achieve sustainability over the long-term.” CEO Gianni Arcaini said in a news release.

Jacksonville-based Duos provides intelligent security and analytical technology solutions.

The company recorded a net loss of $743,000, or 4 cents a share, in the first quarter.

Army contract helps Drone Aviation

Drone Aviation Holding Corp. reported a big increase in first-quarter revenue because of a sale to the U.S. Army.

The Jacksonville-based company increased revenue by 136 percent in the quarter to $869,023, according to its quarterly report filed with the SEC.

Most of that revenue came from a delivery of its tethered aerostat product called the Winch Aerostat Small Platform to the U.S. Army, valued at more than $800,000.

Drone Aviation recorded a net loss of $1.7 million, or 18 cents a share, in the quarter.

GEE Group reports $2.9 million loss

GEE Group Inc. reported revenue rose 85 percent in the second quarter ended March 31 to $39.9 million, helped by an acquisition last year.

However, the staffing company recorded a net loss of $2.9 million, or 28 cents a share.

“We are encouraged about the increased use of contingent labor in the ‘gig economy.’ Secular changes in the workforce coupled with a very tight domestic job market are driving the demand for all of our services,” CEO Derek Dewan said in a news release.

GEE Group is headquartered in Naperville, Illinois, but Dewan works from an office in Jacksonville.

Creative Learning turns profitable

Creative Learning Corp. last week reported a net profit of $39,000 for the second quarter ended March 31, reversing a loss the previous year.

Revenue rose 4.5 percent to $608,000, due to an increase in initial franchise sales.

St. Augustine-based Creative Learning offers educational and enrichment programs for children through franchisees.

Besides the higher revenue, the company also said its results were helped by lower legal expenses. Creative Learning went through a proxy fight with its former CEO last year and also dealt with a lawsuit filed by the SEC alleging securities violations. The company settled the lawsuit with the regulatory agency.

“We believe we are beginning to see the results of the changes we have made in various segments of the business.  We further believe there is room for continued reduction of expenses including professional fees,” Chief Operating Officer Christian Miller said in a news release.