Bottom Line: ML sees its goal

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The Independent Online
ML Laboratories, a USM tiddler which specialises in drug research, is one of those smaller companies for which travelling will almost invariably be more exciting than arriving. Given that it is now, somewhat belatedly, talking of having taken its first step towards its destination, it is perhaps time to sell.

Floated shortly after the crash in late 1987, ML has enjoyed an almost unbroken run of operating losses which neatly parallels the buoyancy in its share price.

The latest figures, for the six months to end March, were consistent with ML's record. Turnover fell to pounds 385,851 ( pounds 467,242), cost of sales rose to pounds 260,729 ( pounds 203,963), and administrative expenses, up steeply at pounds 1.4m ( pounds 894,742), produced an operating loss almost doubled at pounds 1.25m ( pounds 626,325). Since investment income on its pounds 11.2m cash pile halved to pounds 339,551 the pre-tax loss was pounds 953,047, compared with last time's maiden pounds 65,089 profit.

In June, ML finally launched Icodal, a renal dialysis solution, its first and most promising product. Shareholders will have to hope seven years of plenty will now follow the lean ones. The share price, which yesterday fell 3p to 202p, appears to more than fully reflect its aspirations.

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