Berna Biotech swings back to profit

Berna's smallpox vaccine has been selling well Keystone

The Berna Biotech vaccine company has reported a net profit of SFr19.9 million ($15.7 million) for 2003.

This content was published on April 6, 2004

The company – which recovered from a net loss of SFr4.4 million a year earlier – said it expected core sales to grow by at least 20 per cent in 2004.

In a statement, the Bern-based company said net sales rose by 36 per cent last year to SFr257 million.

Earnings before interest, tax and depreciation rose almost threefold last year to SFr44.2 million.

Berna said the increase was boosted in part by a windfall from sales of smallpox vaccines, which soared on a bioterrorism scare following the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001.

Markets unimpressed

But a fall in the company's share price on Tuesday took the shine off the results.

Berna's shares dived by ten per cent to SFr10.95 during mid-morning trading, making them the biggest loser on the Swiss stock exchange (SWX).

"All in all the result is very disappointing, as the profit was expected to be much higher, due to the extraordinary smallpox sales in 2003," commented analysts at Bank Leu.

Berna chief executive, Kuno Sommer, declined to give a detailed forecast for next year.

"Whether we will reach the earnings target will depend on whether we will get new products to the market as planned," he said.

Successful integration

Earnings were also helped by the successful integration of the Dutch firm, Rhein Biotech.

Berna completed a takeover of Rhein Biotech – the world’s third-largest maker of hepatitis B vaccines - in 2002.

“The strong improvement in results is also due to the full consolidation of Rhein Biotech in 2002,” the company said.

Berna Biotech – formerly known as the Swiss Serum and Vaccine Institute – has been developing and marketing vaccines for more than 100 years.

Berna last year came up with a prototype vaccine against the virus that causes the Sars pneumonia virus.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Berna Biotech has its headquarters in the Swiss capital, Bern, and employes over 900 people.
The company reported a 2003 net profit of SFr19.9 million.
Last year it came up with a prototype Sars vaccine.

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