Biotech shares make another leap

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Shares in British Biotech, the biotechnology group, leapt to a new peak yesterday following buying by one of the directors. The price closed at pounds 21.68, up 198p on the day, meaning the shares have more than doubled since the November announcement of promising results from trials of the group's Marimastat anti-cancer drug sent the price soaring.

Yesterday's move seems to have been prompted by the acquisition of 3,000 shares at pounds 18.05 by Henny de Ruiter, who recently joined the board as a non-executive director.

Mr de Ruiter, a Dutchman, is an old contact of John Raisman, the Biotech chairman, who knew him at Shell, where he sits on the board. He is also a director of Heineken and Aegon, the giant Dutch insurance group.

Apart from Mr de Ruiter's purchases, the company could not account for yesterday's sharp price movement. Trading in the shares was strong yesterday, with turnover of 683,000 shares. Buying may have been spurred by two brokers' recommendations last week, when Morgan Stanley moved Biotech from "buy" to "strong buy" and the US house First Boston also issued a buy note.

At the end of November, the share price soared 48 per cent to pounds 15.48 in one day after the company released results apparently showing that cancerous tumours responded to treatment with Marimastat.