The Swiss vaccine producer, Berna Biotech, has had its fortunes turned around by soaring demand for its smallpox vaccine last year.
Berna made a profit of SFr41.4 million on sales of nearly SFr304 million in 2001, a welcome improvement over the previous year when the company fell into the red to the tune of SFr22.9 million.
The increase was due mainly to the demand for its smallpox vaccine in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Sales of this product to the Swiss authorities and other European governments shot up from zero to SFr152 million in just a few months.
Sales improved by 50 per cent, thanks to the smallpox vaccine, but turnover was otherwise flat due to the firm's restructuring effort, which has seen it divest its non-prescription drug unit and close its plasma products business.
Sales of other vaccines fell by six per cent.
Because of the new focus on its core activities, Berna expects revenue to be only SFr200 million this year. The company plans to introduce two new products to the market, a flu and a typhoid vaccine.
The company said its financial position was secure enough to develop its new product pipeline "and on the other hand be ready to take up quickly any merger or acquisition possibilities".
The board has proposed a 1:25 split of Berna's shares, giving each share a nominal value of SFr0.40. This will allow the shares to be listed on the Swiss stock exchange's (SWX) main market.
swissinfo with agencies