Future of Manoplax in balance as Boots talks to regulators: Results improve 12% to pounds 405m on lower interest bill

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The Independent Online
BOOTS, the pharmaceuticals and retail group, said yesterday it would be two or three months before it knew the fate of Manoplax, its recently launched heart drug. The company is talking to industry regulators after a study showed high doses of the treatment harmed patients.

The drug is likely to receive another body blow when doctors read an independent assessment of its key ingredient Flosequinan in the current edition of the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin. It says there is no evidence that the lower (50mg) dosage improves symptoms and concludes that the drug 'cannot be recommended'.

The 100mg tablets implicated in the study have been withdrawn in the UK, although they are still available in the US. Sir James Blyth, chief executive, said he was confident that the drug's approval would be confirmed.

Boots also announced a 19 per cent improvement in pre-tax profits for the year to March from pounds 341m to pounds 405m, helped by a sharp reduction in the amount of interest payable from pounds 43m to pounds 17m. Stripping out the effect of adopting the new FRS 3 reporting standard, profit rose 12 per cent.

Boots The Chemists continued to underpin the group's performance. Profits jumped from pounds 246m to pounds 285m, helped by a reduction over the year of 1,000 staff and an increase in the proportion of own-label products.

Profits from pharmaceuticals slipped 10 per cent to pounds 109m and would have been 16 per cent lower had exchange rates remained unchanged. Turnover rose 9 per cent to pounds 762m, but the costs of launching Manoplax reduced the return on sales.

In retail, the poor performance of the 1989 Ward White acquisition resulted in a repeat of 1992's pounds 3.4m loss. Halfords, which lost pounds 9.5m last year, bounced back to a pounds 4.7m profit, but the improvement was wiped out by a pounds 14.4m loss from Do It All, the do-it- yourself joint venture with WH Smith.

The price-war that hit Do It All also gave AG Stanley's Fads decorating shops a difficult year. Profits more than halved from pounds 6.6m to pounds 2.8m. Profits at Boots Opticians improved from pounds 5.7m to pounds 6.6m.

Earnings per share rose from 23p to 27p. The share price, which has fallen by a fifth so far this year, slipped a further 3p to 444p.

(Photograph omitted)

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