BioWorld International Correspondent

DUBLIN, Ireland - Irish diagnostics firm Trinity Biotech plc joined the summer funding spree, raising US$20 million in a private placing of convertible notes with three undisclosed U.S. institutions.

The notes, which bear interest at 3 percent per annum, have a final maturity date of Jan. 1, 2007. They are convertible at any time into Trinity stock at US$3.55 per share, which represents a 22 percent premium to the company's average closing share price for the preceding 30 days. Rodman & Renshaw Inc., of New York, acted as placement agent on the transaction.

"I think it took about 10 days, start to finish, to close the deal, so it went to bed very smoothly," Trinity Chief Financial Officer Rory Nealon told BioWorld International. The new cash injection swells the Bray-based company's coffers to around US$25 million and will enable it to continue its ongoing strategy of fueling growth through acquisition.

Trinity has built up a strong acquisition engine in the past six years, during which time it has made close to a dozen purchases of companies or product lines.

"The company has a lot of experience in these acquisitions, so we know what we're about," Nealon said. Because of the fragmented nature of the diagnostics industry, new opportunities become available on a regular basis, he added.

The company is likely to make additional purchases in its two core areas of infectious disease and hemostasis. However, Nealon dismissed recent media speculation that Dublin-based Biotrin Holdings plc was a takeover target. "I think that's unlikely to happen," he said.

Trinity Biotech reported net profit of US$1.7 million on sales of US$16.5 million for the first quarter. Nealon said analyst estimates put the company's full-year total at US$68 million. But one significant acquisition could alter the picture dramatically. Moreover, FDA approval for one of its key products, the UniGold HIV test, "is imminent," Nealon said. That product already has a 25 percent share of the African market, he said, and the company expects it to gain either the No. 1 or 2 position in the $40 million U.S. market. Approval could follow shortly after an FDA inspection of the company's Bray, County Wicklow, manufacturing facility in early September.