BioWorld International Correspondent

JERUSALEM - Shore Capital Group sold 13 percent of its approximately 20 percent holding of XTL Biopharmaceuticals Ltd. to Tel Aviv-based Israel Healthcare Ventures, a life sciences venture capital management company.

The 14.45 million shares that were bought at 6 pence each were sold for twice that price, for a total transaction of £1.734 million (US$2.77 million).

XTL CEO Martin Becker told BioWorld International, "Now we have a group of investors in Israel Healthcare Ventures who are committed to building up the company."

Shore Capital's stock sale follows its failed takeover bid, which was rejected by XTL shareholders last month. Graham Shore said at that time that the company "would give XTL management a chance to deliver on its promises to cut expenditures, and to accelerate attempts to find partners for its two leading hepatitis drugs." But the shares were sold anyway, even though XTL laid off an additional 20 employees, reduced its monthly cash burn rate from US$1.4 million to $900,000 so that cash reserves will last until 2006 under the streamlining plan submitted to the London Stock Exchange last week, and the announced waivers of remuneration by executive directors.

"We are not cutting. We are focusing on the development of our most advanced products, putting two products through clinical trials - the HepeX-B antibody program for prevention of hepatitis B reinfection following liver transplant, and HepeX-C, which is in Phase II trials, while we seek a co-development partner to share future development costs," Becker said.

"We anticipate commencing trials of the HepeX-C antiviral small-molecule program for chronic hepatitis C in 2004, then to actively seek to outlicense the product," Becker added.