Celcis shares drop after profits warning

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The Independent Online
Shares in Celsis International, the biotech company founded by the scientist Chris Evans and chaired by former England rugby coach Jack Rowell, lost 27 per cent of their value yesterday after the company issued a profits warning. The shares slumped 19p to a record low of 51.5p when the company said adverse currency factors and the financial turmoil in Asia meant current year profits were unlikely to meet analysts forecasts of pounds 1m-pounds 3m. The shares are now barely half the 100p issue price when the group came to the market in 1993.

The announcement was pounced upon by bear raider Simon Cawkwell who been selling the shares "in the high 70s [pence]" the previous day. Mr Cawkwell, who is known in the market as "Evil Knievel", bought some shares back yesterday as the price fell sharply. However, he said that the company still faced difficulties. "It looks to me as if they have lost their way."

Some analysts questioned whether the profits alert would lead to management changes. But Arthur Holden, Celsis' chief executive, said no decisions had been taken. "The company will review the situation after the dust has settled and take the appropriate action." Founder Chris Evans is a non-executive director of the group. Separately the company said it had unified the distribution of its hygiene monitoring product line SystemSURE, by granting its US distributor Becton Dickinson exclusive rights worldwide. This has delayed short-term products sales for markets outside the US. But the company said it believed the new arrangement would provide a more efficient long-term solution.

In its statement, Celsis added that it was "developing a number of important new product initiatives for exploiting its proprietary technology and remains confident about the prospects for continued growth."

Celsis makes hygiene monitoring kits which detect contamination in food.

In October, the company raised pounds 3.7m through the placing of new shares at 95p. The cash was raised to help fund the pounds 4.4m purchase of Scientific Associates, a contract testing centre in the US.

Celsis shares reached a peak of 141.5p in 1995.