Aortech chief quits after losses triple

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The Independent Online

The loss-making medical devices company Aortech International announced that losses had more than tripled in the year and said its chief executive Bill Strachan will step down from the top spot at the end of the month.

Mr Strachan, who was brought in a year ago after a boardroom clearout and who will continue with the company as a non-executive director, also waived his right to any pay-off.

A spokesperson said Mr Strachan thought it "inappropriate" to take a year's salary in payment given the drastic downsizing of Aortech under his stewardship.

Aortech now has just 15 employees, down from 250, and has pulled out of the bulk of its heart valve businesses to focus on Elast-Eon, a material it believes has good potential in the implant sector.

The move came as Aortech unveiled a pre-tax loss of £39.4m in the year to 31 March, after accounting for a string of exceptional items, compared with a loss of £12.9m in the same period a year before. The shares dropped 26 per cent to close at 10.37p

The chairman, Laurie Rostron, described the past year as "traumatic", characterised by "dramatic" changes and "deeply wounding" cuts such as the workforce reduction.

He insisted, however, that the changes, which included the sale of one of its heart valve businesses in January and the closure of another in March, "had to be made to try to ensure the very survival" of the company.

Aortech said yesterday it believed there were "considerable" opportunities in the specialist biomaterials market and said it could afford to fund its business during the early stages, insisting cash demands would not be excessive. The company, which had some £6.9m of cash at the end of March, said its future lay in developing a biomaterials business "in conjunction with strategic partners".

Aortech also said that Mr Strachan would be replaced by Frank Maguire, who joined Aortech in July of last year as commercial director.

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