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Aldagen, not Talecris, will be IPO test case

Until Talecris Biotherapeutics Holdings Corp. broke the ice in October, no Triangle company had gone public in more than two years. Talecris, based in Research Triangle Park, did it in a big way — raising $950 million, the second-largest initial public offering in the U.S. this year. That brought a sigh of relief from executives of life-science companies — and venture capitalists seeking to cash out of them.

But Talecris is bigger than most life-science companies in the region. Two private-equity firms launched the company in 2005 when they bought German pharma giant Bayer AG’s plasma business, the roots of which reach back 67 years. And unlike many biotechs, it’s profitable, netting $66 million last year. It also doesn’t carry the same scientific, technical and regulatory risks as those still trying to develop a product, says Garheng Kong, who specializes in life-sciences companies for Intersouth Partners, a Durham venture-capital firm.

The truer test will come if and when Durham-based Aldagen Inc. goes through with its $80.5 million IPO, probably sometime after the first of the year. Aldagen is a money-losing company trying to develop drugs from adult stem cells. If it goes public, the window of opportunity opens a little wider for similar companies, some of them already considering an IPO. “We’re expecting 2010 to be much more active than 2009,” says Eric Linsley, managing partner of Pappas Ventures in Durham.

Aldagen scrapped a plan to go public a year ago amid the worldwide financial meltdown. It refiled in October, four weeks after Talecris went public, but there’s no guarantee the market will be favorable when it’s ready to pull the trigger. For one thing, health-care reform being debated in Congress creates uncertainty that could keep investors on the sidelines. “People want to make bets around a system they understand and a system that rewards innovation,” Linsley says. “Right now, it’s not really clear to us where all that is going to settle out.”

John Richert, vice president of business and technology development at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, knows how fast things can change. He was director of business development for Durham-based Sphinx Pharmaceuticals Corp. when it went public in early 1992. There had been a flurry of IPOs that month. The window of opportunity was open. “And the day after we did that, the window shut down. We were branded as the company that shut the IPO window.”

ROXBORO — Parachute maker North American Aerodynamics plans to add 375 jobs by the end of the year, bringing employment to about 420. The company says it needs workers after landing a military contract.

RALEIGH — For the third time this year, Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services is increasing employment at its call center. Hiring began last month for 150 jobs, which will boost the local total to about 1,300. The company, which recently agreed to be acquired by Norwalk, Conn.-based Xerox, added more than 700 workers in two previous hiring rounds.

RALEIGH — Attendance at this year’s North Carolina State Fair — 877,941 during the event’s 11-day run — broke the previous record of 858,611, which was set during a 10-day event in 2007. Closing day set the single-day record at 104,370.

ROXBOROLoxcreen, which makes aluminum tubes for the automotive and housing industries, closed its local plant, putting more than 100 out of work. The West Columbia, S.C., company is consolidating production at its plant in Missouri.

CARYHunter Industries, which makes irrigation systems, will close its local factory by the end of the year, idling 76. The San Marcos, Calif.-based company, which opened the plant in 1992, blamed the poor economy.

OXFORDShalag Industries opened a factory to make nonwoven fabrics used for wipes and diapers. The Israeli company will employ more than 40 at an average yearly salary of $39,966. The Granville County average is $33,020.

SANFORDSanford-Lee County Airport changed its name to Raleigh Exec: The Raleigh Executive Jetport @ Sanford-Lee County. Airport officials say the change reflects its concentration on private business flights.

MORRISVILLEActive Data Services, which helps companies computerize records, was acquired by Scranton, Pa.-based Diversified Information Technologies, which manages records. Diversified plans to keep most of Active Data’s 105 employees.