Drugs strengthen Fisons resistance

Fisons yesterday announced interim profits at the top end of analysts' expectations as it continued to resist the pounds 1.7bn bid from the French- owned US drugs group Rhone-Poulenc Rorer. The main spur to growth came from pharmaceuticals, which saw operating profits leap 31 per cent to pounds 47.6m.

Stuart Wallis, chief executive, said the results from the division "clearly give the lie to the assertion by RPR that our pharmaceutical franchise has stalled." His call to shareholders to continue to reject the bid, worth 240p a share, found an echo amongst shareholders as RPR announced that acceptances at the first closing date covered a mere 0.24 per cent of the shares. But RPR dismissed the figures, highlighting the boost given by a particularly strong hay fever season in Japan, which Fisons admitted had added around pounds 13m to sales and pounds 10m to profits, and the impetus provided by the bid.

Sales of Intal, Fisons' core but ageing anti-asthma drug, fell 9 per cent to pounds 92m, hit by the move off-patent of the nebulised form of the drug in the US last year. Growth of 21 per cent to pounds 25m in its replacement, Tilade, was insufficient to offset the decline.

The failed merger with Medeva cost pounds 3m in fees and other costs, Fisons revealed. It announced an 18 per cent increase in the interim dividend to 2p.

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