Kári Stefánsson, chairman, founder and CEO of deCODE genetics opened the Nasdaq Stock Market on Wednesday, marking the five year anniversary of deCODE genetics on the Nasdaq Market.
Kári Stefánsson addressed guests before formally opening the market. Outside the building was a large deCODE genetics advertisement with a picture of Skógarfoss, a waterfall in the south of Iceland, falling from the top of the building. According to a news program on television station Stöd 2, Kári is the first Icelander to open the Nasdaq.
Icelandic State Radio, RÚV, reports that, in its five years on the Nasdaq, deCODE’s stock price has fluctuated considerably. According to RÚV, after the IPO in July 2000, the price went up to USD 26.50. Subsequently, it declined and traded under 2 dollars for a long period. Recently the stock has been valued at about USD 10 which, according to RÚV, is very far from the price deCODE genetics traded at in Iceland before being listed on the Nasdaq Market. From 1998 – 2000, the stock traded for up to USD 60 on the Icelandic gray market.
RÚV reports that there were high expectations for deCODE genetics, and in 1998 the president of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, said that Icelanders had not engaged in a bigger project since the settlement of the country in the 9th century. After a six month bitter battle in the Icelandic parliament, Althingi, the parliament passed a law in January 1999 that gave the government a basis for granting deCODE an exclusive license to compile a database of clinical, genealogical and genomic information from the Icelandic population. The database is still to be completed, and the company has shifted its business model to drug discovery.
Television station Stöd 2 reports that deCODE has yet to turn a profit, it has lost money every year since it was founded, last year over ISK 3.5 billion.
In the wake of the IPO on Nasdaq, Icelandic media reported on an hidden commission of more than USD 5 million that was paid to a Luxembourg company during a private placement of approximately USD 85 million in Iceland in 1999. The Luxembourg company was subsequently dissolved through Panama. deCODE management has refused to disclose the beneficial owners of the Luxembourg intermediary.
In an interview with Morgunbladid yesterday Kári said, “Since 2000, tech stocks have been having a tough time. We went swimming with the big fish and have compared ourselves to them.” He continued, “People in Iceland find it hard to put this in perspective, because at the same time, the small market we have in Iceland has been expanding in a unfathomable way, unlike everywhere else. But when it comes to Icelandic market, people are amusing themselves in a very small and muddy puddle. They are not out in the big sea with the other big fish. We are proud to be around the biggest. We have held our own and never performed better.”
Accompanying its coverage of the opening of the Nasdaq, Morgunbladid showed a photo of Thórdur Fridjonsson, managing director of the “muddy little puddle”, the Icelandic Stock Exchange, standing beside Kári applauding.
The previous Sunday, both Icelandic dailies, Fréttabladid and Morgunbladid, prominently reported that Kári was going to spend a week of his summer vacation working at the National University Hospital starting last Monday. “I am just relieving for fun and to recollect old memories, ” said Kári in an interview with the Fréttabladid. The Morgunbladid reported that Kári has not practiced medicine for nine years. Whether Kári had received a leave of absence from the University Hospital to open the Nasdaq was not disclosed in yesterday’s coverage.