The founder and former CEO of the pharmaceutical company Mithra, François Fornieri, is now also stepping down as non-executive director. Marc Coucke and other shareholders are pumping more than 20 million euros into the company, which is also considering a convertible loan.
Liège businessman François Fornieri already took a step back as CEO in February last year because a judicial inquiry had been opened into his possible involvement in the case of the Liège intermunicipal company Nethys.
It is whispered here and there that his departure is related to the funding round at Mithra. But both Fornieri and Mithra claim that personal reasons lie behind the departure of the founder, who remains the largest shareholder (23.2%). “Over the past year, I have worked closely with CEO Leon Van Rompay and the directors to transfer all my knowledge of the company I have run for 22 years,” says Fornieri. ‘The time has come to use my energy and expertise as an entrepreneur for other professional projects.’
- The pharmaceutical company Mithra will raise approximately 22 million euros from existing shareholders.
- It is also conducting exclusive negotiations on a convertible bond loan, which could amount to 100 million euros.
- At the same time, the former CEO and founder François Fornieri is leaving the board, officially ‘for personal reasons’.
- With an ownership stake of 23.2 percent, Fornieri is the largest shareholder in Mithra.
“I’m actively working to create a new business in the pharmaceutical sector – in a way a return to my first love,” Fornieri tells our sister newspaper L’Echo. “I prefer to focus on this new project now and I have full confidence in Mithra’s directors. But of course they can call me if they need my expertise for a particular file. At least it’s not correct to say, that Mithra has pushed me aside. ‘
Fornieri is also a shareholder in Millésime Chocolat and in the security company Protection Unit. It has grown to number three in its sector through acquisitions. ‘We will follow a similar path with Millésime,’ says the entrepreneur. He also has real estate and parking spaces in his portfolio.
The news of the last break with Fornieri is accompanied by the announcement of a capital increase of at least 20 million euros. Mithra will turn to its existing shareholders and new – as yet unidentified – investors, who together have already given conditional commitments of 21.9 million euros.
Flemish investors Marc Coucke, Bart Versluys and Stijn Van Rompay, among others, pledged to put fresh money on the table, as did investor Glenernie Capital, co-founder Jean-Michel Foidart and Walloon public investors Noshaq and SRIW.
Mithra says she needs the money for further studies of the hot flash drug Donesta, which is in the third research phase, and to supplement the working capital. At the end of last year, the Liège company had a net liquidity of 32.9 million euros. It has already raised 28 million since the beginning of this year. It ‘burns’ around 100 million euros in cash a year.
The money from Coucke and co. must fill the coffers in anticipation of greater funding. In addition, Mithra wants to issue a convertible bond of 100 million euros so that it no longer has to rely on the credit lines of LDA Capitals and Goldman Sachs. It would be a loan that can be taken out in different tranches of a maximum of 65 million euros per tranche – or 75 million under certain conditions.
At the end of 2020, the pharmaceutical company also raised 125 million euros via a five-year bond loan at a solid interest rate.
Proceeds of 120 million euros from the capital increase and from the new guaranteed bond loan, which is under exclusive negotiations, should, according to the stock exchange Degroof Petercam, be enough for Mithra to be able to finance the activities until the end of this year. Then there should be a licensing agreement for the drug Donesta.
Analysts estimate that this licensing agreement may be accompanied by a prepayment of 200 million to 400 million euros.
Negotiations are still ongoing on the other terms of the new bond, such as the interest rate. Mithra is looking for a solution that will ‘protect’ its cash flows to the maximum. Interest, fees and other amounts due to lenders can also be paid in full or in part in shares.
The small shareholders risk being significantly diluted by the new financing measures. Mithra calms them down with the message that further cost savings will be made on ‘the cash runway’ (the time a company must remain solvent without attracting additional funds, ed.) and improve performance.
Due to his resignation as director of Mithra, François Fornieri will no longer be considered an ‘insider’. He no longer has to report sales or purchases of Mithra shares to the exchange’s watchdog FSMA and can now trade in the shadows. He only has to report if he falls below or exceeds certain thresholds. Given its current participation (23.2%) in Mithra, this is the thresholds of 20 and 25 percent.
Fornieri has been a very active insider for the past year and a half. Between the beginning of 2021 and today, he sold Mithra shares for more than 25 million euros. ‘I only sold shares to repay bank loans. It’s only 2 percent of my total investment in Mithra, “he said of these transactions in early April. He added that he understood that his recent sale” raises questions in the current context and may be misinterpreted. “