LONDON — It was a "disappointing" half year for Europe's leading specialist biotechnology investment company, Biotechnology Investments Limited (BIL), which last week reported a fall of more than 9 percent in its share price for the six months ending November 1997.
"A slight fall in the public market in the U.S. and a severe drop of 33 percent in the U.K., coupled with a strong pound, have affected the share price, which fell by 9.06 percent. This fall in the sterling share price virtually matched the fall in the sterling net asset value per share," said the chairman, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster.
The market value of the company's quoted investments fell to US$250.4 million on November 30, 1997, from US$312.6 million six months earlier.
Net asset value per share dropped to $6.65, from $7.12, and the share price was £3.01 against £3.31.
However, Lord Armstrong stated the value of investments in unquoted biotech companies had increased in number and value. BIL invested in six new private companies, five in the U.S. and one in Singapore, and put $8 million into further financings of private companies already in the portfolio. It put the valuation of the unquoted portfolio at $83.1 million at November 1997, compared with $77.6 million six months earlier.
Sales of quoted investments realized proceeds of $65.5 million, a net gain of $33.6 million, an increase on the same period of 1996 of $2.8 million.
Overall Lord Armstrong pointed out that proposals for new investment were "running as strongly as ever." Proposals increased to 424 from 275 in the same period of 1996, which he said was "a sign of strong growth in biotech innovation."
He added, "Investments in the up and coming biotech companies of the future, the unquoted ones, have increased in number and value. The board remains convinced of the commercial benefits inherent in biotechnology and points to firm growth in the industry."
Last month BIL announced its first investment in Germany. It put DM2 million into Virgene AG, of Munich, which is developing antibiotics and antivirals. Virgene was founded by Axel Ullrich, one of the cofounders of Sugen Inc., of Redwood City, Calif.