Cobra slumps on profit warning

Related tags Virus Protein Dna Cobra

Shares in Cobra Biomanufacturing of the UK fell 30 per cent
yesterday after the contract manufacturer of proteins, DNA and
viruses gave a warning on profits.

The shares fell 43.5 pence to 101.5p - just above the 100p the company was at when it spun out of ML Laboratories in 2002, despite the assurances of chairman Peter Fothergill that the downgrade was due to delayed rather than cancelled orders.

Cobra now expects to break even in the year to 30 September 2004 rather than report a profit. However, this does not suggest that the company has been wrong-footed; Fothergill said when Cobra reported maiden profits last year that "maintaining this momentum in the present environment will be challenging".​ Analysts had hoped for a profit of around £1.8 million (€2.6m).

The company still expects to meet analysts' forecasts of a profit in the year to September 2005 - estimated by broker Collins Stewart at £3.1 million - as revenues for the delayed projects come in.

"Sales for the year to September 2004 are likely only to increase by approximately 30 per cent, rather than by 80 per cent as forecast," said the company in a statement.

A key factor will be sales of plasmid DNA in the first half of the year, which are expected to be down 76 per cent compared with thesimilar period in 2003.

"Delays and rescheduling of contracts are commonplace for Cobra. It is the size of the delays that is unusual," said the firm.

Meanwhile Cobra's expanded capacity in protein and virus manufacturing, through the acquisition last year of a new facility in Oxford, will mitigate the delays to the DNA contracts, it said. The new unit will be able to make a significant contribution to sales in the second half, which would otherwise have been capacity constrained.

The facility will allow for a higher throughput of protein (sales up 11 per cent in the first half of financial year 2004) and virus contracts (sales expected to be up 108 per cent over the same period) where demand is much more buoyant, particularly from the US, said Cobra.

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