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Athenex shares fall after reporting bigger-than-expected loss

Athenex Inc. said Monday it expects its new factory in Dunkirk to be completed by the end of March 2019, but the drug development company's shares tumbled by 5 percent after its fourth-quarter loss was far bigger than analysts expected.

Athenex reported a loss of $28.3 million, or 49 cents per share, during the quarter that ended in December. While that was less than the $40.1 million, or 98 cents per share, that Athenex lost during the same period in 2016, it was much more than the loss of 16 cents per share that analysts were expecting.

Athenex's sales nearly tripled to $14.9 million from $5.1 million, but the increase was less than analysts were forecasting. Analysts expected the company to report more than $20 million in revenues during the quarter.

The shortfall in sales and the bigger-than-expected loss caused Athenex stock to fall more than 5 percent, or 88 cents, to $15.31 on Monday. The shares had fallen as low as $14.40 in mid-day trading.

Athenex, however, is expecting its rapid sales growth to continue this year. The company said it expects revenues this year to roughly triple to between $100 million and $125 million, up from $38 million during 2017.

Athenex is trying to develop new cancer drugs that can be administered in pill form rather than intravenously. And it has developed a way of inhibiting a type of protein, which Athenex officials believe could help limit the growth of some types of cancer. Two of its prospective drugs are in advanced Phase 3 clinical trials.

The company also is making and selling other types of generic drugs in a push to build a revenue stream at a time when its own drug-development efforts are burning through upwards of $20 million in cash during each quarter.

Athenex, which raised $68 million from a secondary stock offering during the quarter, finished the year with $51 million in cash and short-term investments, down from $69 million in September as the company spent heavily on clinical trials for the drugs it is developing and absorbed higher licensing fees at its specialty drug business, which has added 12 new drugs to its stable of products.

The company, which has more than 400 employees, has promised to create 450 jobs and spend more than $1.5 billion on operating expenses at the Dunkirk factory during the first 10 years that it is open in return for being able to lease the plant for $1 a year. The company has the option to extend the lease for a second 10-year term under virtually the same financial arrangement.

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