Odyssey Marine drops on ruling that 1804 shipwreck booty belongs to Spain

By Thom Weidlich - Bloomberg

Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. (OMEX) fell as much as 44 percent as an appeals court upheld a ruling that property it recovered from a sunken ship code-named “Black Swan” must be returned to Spain.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta affirmed the lower- court ruling in a decision today.

“The district court did not err when it ordered Odyssey to release” the property to Spain, the appeals court said.

In December 2009, U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday in Tampa, Florida, backed Spain’s position on the treasure from the ship, whose full name is Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, and dismissed the case that Odyssey Marine had brought. Merryday had said Odyssey could hold the property while it pursued its appeal.

Odyssey fell to $1.80 before closing at $2.16, down 33 percent, in Nasdaq Stock Market trading.

The company will ask the full appeals court to rehear the case, it said in a statement.

“While we were surprised by the ruling and are obviously not pleased with the opinion, there is no near-term economic impact on the company,” President Mark Gordon said in the statement.

Odyssey, which searches for sunken treasure, said in May 2007 it recovered more than 17 tons (15,422 kilograms) of silver coins from the ship, which went down in the Atlantic Ocean off the Strait of Gibraltar.

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