For the six months-ending 1 November 2003, the company said sales fell 9 per cent to £40.4 million (€58.6m), while pretax profits fell 45 per cent to £3.1 million.
Analysts said that profits at the company, which specialises in devices used to deliver drugs into the lungs, were better than expected. And they welcomed the appointment of new chairman John Robinson, who is credited with turning around the fortunes of medical device company Smith and Nephew in the 1990s.
Bespak's respiratory sales, comprising metered dose inhaler valves, actuators, medical check valves and nasal delivery devices, were flat year-on-year at £17.7 million.
Valves for use with environmentally friendly HFA propellants are replacing CFC-based formulations in Europe. However, for the time being no such trend is evident in the US, which remains predominantly a CFC market, according to Bespak.
In the device and manufacturing services business, which produces inhalers for the likes of GlaxoSmithKline, sales fell 3 per cent to £19.4 million. Volume sales of its flagship inhaler have been increasing, but Bespak has had to cut prices, according to Mark Throdahl, the firm's chief executive.
However, the big payoff for Bespak could come if an inhaled formulation of insulin in Aventis and Pfizer's pipeline, called Exubera, reaches the market. Bespak has finalised the manufacturing process for the inhaler device that will deliver the product, likely to be the first alternative to injectable insulin for use by diabetics.
If approved, Exubera is tipped to become a blockbuster product with annual sales in excess of $1 billion as early as 2006. It is currently under regulatory review.
Meanwhile, cost-cutting measures put in place last year - including staff cuts and the discontinuation of research looking at nasal delivery - are starting to bear fruit, according to the company.
Group operating profit before exceptional items increased 43 per cent to £5 million, while the operating profit margin before exceptional items increased to 12.4 per cent from 7.9 per cent in 2002.