PowderJect reports healthy rise in profits
by Philip Howard
Last update: 09:10, Nov 12, 2002

POWDERJECT Pharmaceuticals, the vaccines specialist, today posted a
forecast-beating rise in first-half profit, strengthening its claim that a
recent 455m bid approach was opportunistic.

The firm, which is being pursued by US pharmaceutical firm Chiron according
to industry sources, said profit before tax leapt more than four-fold to
19.3m in the six months to 30 September, driven by strong sales of its
Fluvirin flu vaccine.

Analyst forecasts had ranged from 13m-15m.

"These results show what a strong business we've got and I can understand
why competitors are interested," the chairman and chief executive, Paul
Drayson, said.

But he reiterated the bid approaches were "opportunistic", because they came
at a time when the share price was at a four-year low.

It has been a roller-coaster year for PowderJect. In March it became only
the second British biotech firm in history to post a profit as it cemented
its switch from a needle-free drug delivery firm to a vaccines specialist.

It then became caught up in a political row in April when it won a contract
to supply smallpox vaccine to the UK just weeks after Mr Drayson had donated
money to the Labour Party.

Worse came in August, when PowderJect's shares plunged after it withdrew a
tuberculosis vaccine used to inoculate school children because it had found
some faulty batches.

But the shares bounced back last month when the firm said it had received a
number of takeover approaches.

Mr Drayson said there had still not been a formal offer for the business,
and declined to comment on media reports that Chiron had dropped its verbal
bid to 450p-per-share and that Shire Pharmaceuticals had pulled out of

"The board will consider any offer properly, and consider whether it is in
the interest of shareholders," he said.

Mr Drayson forecast a "modest" second-half profit, adding the company was on
target to meet its goal of delivering a full-year pre-tax profit of over

Revenues from PowderJect's Fluvirin flu vaccine are focused on the
first-half of the fiscal year. They totalled 76.5m in the six months to 30