SYDNEY, Australia - The share price of Biota Ltd. jumped almost 9 percent in three days, after the company announced that Glaxo Wellcome plc, of London, had obtained final sales approval in Australia and Sweden for Relenza, an influenza-cure product based on Biota's technology.
The increase of A$0.71 to A$8.96 (US$5.78) by the close of business Friday is also due to the expectation that Glaxo will achieve similar approvals in the U.S. and Europe before the start of the next flu season in the Northern Hemisphere.
To date, Biota has declared only losses and has seen its share price pushed up often on minor announcements in the volatile Australian market. This time, however, analysts said Biota's long history of issuing accounts in red ink (the company was founded in the 1980s) is about to end, and the current share price is justified on projected earnings.
Michael Carmody, a biotechnology analyst in the Sydney office of stockbroker Burdett Buckeridge Young, predicts the drug will have a sale price of US$55 in the U.S. market, which would give the company royalty net profits of A$21.5 million in 2000, rising to A$49.4 million in 2002. Biota's last full year of results showed a loss of $4.8 million.
Carmody said Biota will have considerable tax credits, due to past losses that, under Australian tax law, the company can use to eliminate corporate tax from the first declared result, so the first net profit will be high.
From those calculations, Burdett Buckeridge Young recently issued a valuation for Biota's shares of between A$8.30 and A$12.80.
Carmody also noted Relenza may be priced at up to A$85 in Australia, depending on what strategy Glaxo adopts with the local regulatory authorities to get the drug listed under the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
The Australian pharmaceutical pricing system is complex but, in essence, any drug that is listed on the benefits scheme attracts a consumer subsidy, and so achieves much higher sales.
However, Carmody also noted that, since Australia accounts for only 1 percent of world pharmaceutical sales, Glaxo's pricing strategy in Australia will not greatly affect Biota's value.
Relenza works by blocking the neuraminidase enzyme found on the surface of the flu virus, preventing the virus from spreading to cells within the respiratory tract. The drug is delivered through an inhaler.