The Calandra Report: Coastal Contacts, Inovio, Stockr and more at LD Micro

Thom Calandra
1 Comment|December 6, 2013

LOS ANGELES -- Just back from getting my batteries charged at LD Micro in Bel Air.
 
About 240 companies -- four or five gold - a dozen energy - and the rest Biomedical, Internet, retail, wholesale, financial, media -- and nearly all below $400 million market size.
 
Let me say that the four-track conference is "all companies all the time." [Editor: You just said it.]
 
Sure, LD splays out the food at the Luxe Sunset in Bel Air, employs wanna-be actresses (and actors?) as hosts, guides and serves excellent coffees and teas.
 
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At least one of LD's parties, my lips are supposed to be sealed, was epic. I left in the middle, which is where epics (literary tradition) are designed to begin
 
The LD tracks are the thing. The 30-minute one-on-ones, too. Very early morning through 5:30 p.m. for three days. Each company gets 25 minutes. I am drenched with data and promises.
 
The oneskies take place everywhere on the hotel property, all numbered on patios, in the bar, on the terrace. The Luxe in Bel Air sits just below Getty Museum and is a smart little walk up Sunset to Brentwood, or to Beverly Hills. I used to go there when the hotel was under different management 14 and 12 years ago, with my family. Great pool, huge rooms, lots of sun and neat outdoor breakfasts surrounded by Hollywood media execs all duded up with no socks, fancy loafers and high-heels. 
 
This time, I ran into old acquaintances, including Vinny Jindal, a Los Angeles hip cat who is running a private investor-relations network powered by technology: it is called Stockr.
 
Vinny and his wife just had a baby. He is one to watch. Vinny, that is, and let's hope the baby. Stockr is, as stated, private.
 
I just joined the free network, which connects companies, analysts, investors, media professionals and so on.
 
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(Photo: Vinny with writer and Vancouver, Canada, investor Gianni Kovacevic)
 
Before I go into another cat, the 30-year-old investor who started this LD micro-company fest seven years ago, allow me to stitch three or four threads, each a sentence or three.
 
[TCR will detail more on the following companies in coming days. Note: New subscribers, this week was a one-off; as in, TCR usually goes out three times or more a week. You know, that line in the movie, "Traffic, it is a bitch."]
 
-- Straightaway, our TCR audience might consider purchasing shares of Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NYSE-MKT:INO, Stock Forum) soonest, even at $2 U.S. Inovio is running at least seven, maybe eight active new-drug programs, some in trials and others in lab -- among them, synthetic DNA vaccines (influenza, malaria, hepatitis) and treatments for HPV (sexual ickiness that starts in teen years). That one, VGX-3100, could see orphan-drug status from USA regulators. Inovio, based in San Diego, California, will get further Phase II human trial data on HPV virus (human papilloma) in 2014.
 
I spent time (one-on-one) with Joseph Kim, founder. Those who want an audio of Dr. Kim's presentation, please whisper and I will (attempt to) transmit.
 
Inovio possesses 400 patents and a drug delivery method based on in-vivo electroporation that the FDA folks in Washington, D.C., appear to regard as safe and accurate.
 
OK, so this is not a sentence or two.
 
Inovio is working on breast-lung cancer formulations; head and neck cancer; anogenital cancers. Its class T-cell immune responses are seen by many as best in class. Which class? Most any.
 
Inovio was one of the more successful companies at LD.
 
INO's market worth is growing weekly and now at $450 million.
 
No financings for two full years, I am promised. Dr. Kim and team already have absorbed $60 million since 2009 via grants and other non-dilutive arrangements, including one with all-consuming Roche.
 
This could be my next Illumina (NASDAQ:ILMN, Stock Forum) -- another San Diego-area company, genomic tools, that took me from $300 million to $6 billion market cap in five or six years. [Illumina is now $12 billion.] I will be purchasing soonest at $2 or so.   
 
-- American Sands Energy: I met CEO Will Gibbs, a Utah-raised attorney who studied at Oxford and Georgetown and spent time, a long time ago, as an SEC enforcement lawyer. Will's family developed an oil-sand resource near Sunnyside, Utah. I have been purchasing the shares (OBB:AMSE, Stock Forum) for a few months now. The lease portfolio covers 1,800 acres with 150 million barrels of PSO-contingent bitumen. This is oil wet sands.
 
The idea here is that financing attention to a few other oil-sand companies this autumn, U.S. Oil Sands (also in Utah) and another one this week in the Bakken formation of central Canada likely will send AMSE shares to $1 based merely on fair-value comps. I appreciate the fact that Utah rolls with its oil-gas-and-mining permits in rapido fashion. AMSE uses no water in the bitumen extraction process. More to come.
 
[Regrets, I have had a few. I still own shares of Rango Energy (OTCQB:RAGO, Stock Forum), which has been a disaster. Down 65 percent on my RAGO purchase from five or six months ago. Until we learn more about its half-cocked plan to purchase Innex Energy for the value of its San Joaquin and Texas-area oil and gas leases, we must pinch our nostrils and pray for -- well, not the best, but at least NOT the worst. Its most recent press release -- about its intent to purchase Innex, broke my No. 1 personal rule about LOIs, or letters of intent: Don't press release 'em until they are signed and sealed contracts, fully financed and ready to roll.]
 
Chris Lahiji is that 30-year old -- the California lad, sometimes researcher, financier and investor -- who runs LD. Chris is outside the box. His conference each year is an event in LA. Hotels get filled to max. At least 1,300 executives and qualified investors -- all certified as attending and actually there, for real.
 
I mean, forget about snatching a cab at the Luxe; even the Sunset Boulevard No. 2 municipal orange bus was packed. (Imagine, high-schoolers with water-polo knapsacks and this LD crowd.)
 
Great displays -- sound system technologies, gaming tables, foodie companies, stun-gun wanna-bes, Vinny's Stockr with the most amazing FREE sunglasses ever.
 
Best of all, besides the excellent veggie sandwiches, wood-fired pizzas and truffle-coated risottos (okay, I exaggerate, but just a tad), LD's tracks and one-on ones are an investor geek's paradisio.
 
Or inferno, if you all pick the wrong ones. 
 
Chris came right up to me first day -- his 27-year-old brother, Eric, pointed me out to him -- and said, and I quote, "So you gave me the balls to do what I do, write what I write, like from 15 years ago, 10 years ago."
 
Thanks for that Chris, who has been running his own and other folks' money since his teens.
 
To my knowledge, Chris never ran afoul of regulators, unlike, say, moi in my one-year of SEC scrutiny and settlement.
 
Chris makes money on the conference, but says he does even better as an investor. He was last seen coming out of a company track with HII Technologies (HIIT in USA), an oilfield services firm from Houston.
 
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(Photo: Chris, at right, with Thom, who had abstained from alcohol for 10 days; I relented and had an IPA the other evening -- thanks for that, Luke.)
 
I went to LA to see 10 companies in particular: Coastal Contacts (TSX:T.COA, Stock Forum) was at the top of the list with Inovio.
 
Coastal has an eyeglass and contact lens business that one day could make it the world's largest Internet and High Street seller of prescription glasses and contacts in the world.
 
It is already raising eyebrows in Canada, Sweden and now, the USA.
 
Coastal's margins are thick yet its retail prices are half and even a quarter of its competitors. It helps to manufacture the eyeware, which comes in scores of styles and brands.
 
I missed out on Coastal at $2 a share, and now that it is almost $7, the company, based in Vancouver, Canada, is about an eyelash away from consistent profitability.
 
I believe Coastal now has 2 million Internet-driven unique eyeglass customers.
 
Its contact lens growth appears to be smart, too. What caught my eye (Editor: No pun intended?] is when Gary Collins and Terry Vanderkruyk, the two execs who coasted into LD Micro for the track presentation and my half-hour one-on-two, told me its High Street store strategy is looking crazy profitable.
 
Those are my words.
 
Terry and Gary are, along with founder Roger Hardy, what I would call direct, conservative, friendly and tall.  If I get this correctly, Coastal's first 11 stores (Sweden, Vancouver, Toronto), are moving product at a rate (in at least one store) at a $2,000 per square foot pace. Apple takes the eye-candy on this metric at $6k a foot, followed by Tiffany, with Coastal, Lululemon and Coach in the top five.  
 
I have yet to purchase COA shares. I have my readers on and am perusing right now. (We have Mr. Kovacevic and Mr. Hardy to thank for introducing me to Coastal four years ago.) [Editor: OK, so thank them already.]
 
Finally: Gold Standard Ventures (Luke Norman – TSX:V.GSV, Stock Forum) and Paramount Gold & Silver (Chris Crupi – TSX:T.PZG, Stock Forum) also presented at LD.
 
I think GSV, one of our TCR 8, might be on the cusp of a breakthrough -- but have no idea whether it is regarding property ownership in Nevada, ownership structure, fresh funds or Railroad District drill assays.
 
Paramount is on track for further drilling at San Miguel in Mexico and is not yet looking over its shoulders for the next placement round, as it has another 20 months or so of cash. ... As for the rest of the TCR 8, Solvista Gold (TSX:V.SVV, Stock Forum) and Gran Colombia Gold (TSX:T.GCM, Stock Forum) really truly suck, the shares, that is.
 
I continue to stick with each of the 8 in a dumpster market for resource equities -- 2 years, 9 months, 14 days and running. ... Averaging down?
 
Of the 8, perhaps the most conservative choices in a high-octane portfolio that is put-putting along, or falling off the cliff, to be more honest: Gold Standard Ventures, NuLegacy Gold (TSX:V.NUG, Stock Forum) and Atico Mining (TSX:V.ATY, Stock Forum). ...
 
Colt Resources is on the cusp of returning to 40 cents a share in the next two weeks, informed (or is it deformed) bankers tell me. We'll see. Colt (TSX:V.GTP, Stock Forum), along with NuLegacy and Gold Standard, do NOT keep me awake at night, unless I happen to be thinking about my next Audi or who knows, my first Ducati. ...
 
Congratulations are in order to Benoit Gascon's Mason Graphite (TSX:V.LLG, Stock Forum), whose resource increase at its Quebec project is boosting the shares this week.
 
See Stockhouse article | See Ceo.ca article ...
 
Congratulations to Tembo Gold and CEO-geologist David Scott and team on getting almost $6 million into its Tanzania-pointed prospecting coffers. I think Tembo shares will rise faster and higher than anything else I can think of when the resources equities get back on track. 
 
Thank you, Index Universe and Hannah Tool for a fun interview. Please see: http://ceo.ca/thom-calandra-on-gold-juniors-and-etfs/ and http://www.indexuniverse.com/sections/features/20601-calandra-junior-miners-need-consolidating.html?fullart=1&start=2. - Interview With An Asset Vampire.

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tcalandra
Chris Lahiji offers these clarifications and corrections to the article: I do have a couple of corrections. Changes: * I am not a financier. Never have been, nor will be. At least I hope not. * As for running other people's money, I have not invested one dime personally outside my own household. It is just me and family. -- Thanks for that Chris.
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December 12, 2013
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