Elan soars as it prepares to publish accounts for 2002

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The Independent Online

Elan, the disaster-stricken pharmaceuticals group which was once Ireland's largest company, has staved off the threat of collapse, saying it can finally publish its accounts for 2002.

The company has been in default of about £500m of its debt since failing to file the figures at the end of June because US regulators queried its byzantine accounting policies.

Elan's shares soared more than 25 per cent to 360.5p in London trading yesterday after it said it was less than 48 hours from publishing the accounts, which include a number of restatements forced on it by the Securities and Exchange Commission of the US.

Kelly Martin, Elan's chief executive, said the company had taken time with its auditors to ensure that everyone was in agreement over the new accounts. "Our approach throughout this process has been exceedingly deliberate. Over the course of the last nine weeks we appreciate the patience and support of all our stakeholders in seeing this process through to a conclusion."

Elan had repeatedly been forced to seek waivers from the holders of debt on which it had defaulted.

The new accounts consolidate a number of secretive off-balance-sheet vehicles which Elan had used to fund its drug development work and the work of its biotech partners. There is also a new write-down of assets of $46.1m.

Mr Martin said the publication of the accounts will allow the debt-burdened company to return to the task of shoring up its finances. It has $2bn of debt to repay over the next five years, and has raised $1.7bn through a disposal programme.

Ian Hunter, an analyst at Goodbody Stockbrokers in Dublin, said Elan returns to being "a real biotech group, losing money, looking to conserve cash and waiting for some good news on Antegren [its lead product, a potential treatment for the bowel disorder Crohn's disease and multiple sclerosis]".

Elan is also still facing an SEC investigation into whether it misled investors over the state of its finances.