Medeva magician Gowrie Smith plans encore

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IAN GOWRIE SMITH, the Australian entrepreneur who built Medeva from a tiny research company into a pounds 400m pharmaceuticals group, is planning a stock market comeback by the end of this year, writes Neil Thapar.

Mr Gowrie Smith, who was ousted as the group's managing director six months ago after Medeva ran into problems with two US acquisitions, has identified several targets in the US and Europe for his new UK investment vehicle, Brightstone.

'We are again getting active in the public domain and there are several deals up in the air. I hope we will have something by Christmas time,' he said.

'There is an enormous opportunity to build up a large pharmaceuticals company without the risk of huge research.

'Some companies have patents but lack distribution, while others have distribution but lack a large enough product base. A number of opportunities will come from managing together the different component parts of the industry.'

Mr Gowrie Smith's first acquisition is expected to be worth about dollars 50m ( pounds 32m) and will involve substantial personal investment by him. He is thought to have amassed a personal fortune of at least pounds 20m from his previous venture.

Together with his long-time associate, David Lees, Medeva's former finance director, he is targeting quoted companies that own patents either to drugs or delivery products.

The duo are in talks with several City advisers for their first move, but declined to name any. 'We have been presented with a lot of opportunities and there is a high probability of our taking a substantial stake through a UK vehicle,' Mr Gowrie Smith said.

Medeva began life as an Aids research company, floated on the Stock Exchange's now- defunct Third Market in 1987 with a market value of about pounds 1m. Thanks to an acquisition spree financed by paper, its market value peaked at more than pounds 600m within four years.