Nycomed staff to get £5,000 of share options

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The Independent Online

Nycomed Amersham is to give all its employees share options worth at least £5,000 when it floats its life sciences business on the US Nasdaq technology share index later this year.

Nycomed Amersham is to give all its employees share options worth at least £5,000 when it floats its life sciences business on the US Nasdaq technology share index later this year.

Nycomed yesterday confirmed that it would spin off 10 per cent of Amersham Pharmacia Biotech, the biotech subsidiary which it jointly owns with Pharmacia & Upjohn, the US pharma giant. The company first mooted the idea in February.

APB makes equipment used in genomics research, including devices that unravel gene sequences. Analysts value it at between $4bn (£2.7bn) and $6bn.

Sir William Castell, Nycomed's chief executive, said the move would help APB attract top scientific talent and make acquisitions.

APB staff are to receive $8,000 of share options, vesting in three years, upon the company's listing.

Employees at Nycomed, which becomes a focused imaging business, will receive £5,000 of stock options in Nycomed, which is listed in the UK.

Nycomed's plans to list only 10 per cent of APB restricts it to a single listing, with the Nasdaq proving most suitable given its genomics focus. Nycomed said it was considering establishing an intellectual property unit within APB, which owns patents on 10,000 genes.

APB's head office is to be relocated to New Jersey from Uppsala in Sweden and Amersham in Britain. Of APB's 4000 employees, 800 are based in Britain. Sir William said: "I would be sad if we remained in the UK and then didn't sell effectively to our market."

Sir William becomes chairman of APB while retaining his responsibilities at Nycomed but will remain on his existing salary.

Nycomed, which owns 55 per cent of APB, said it could not float more of APB otherwise it would cede control to P&U. P&U has been looking to reduce its stake from 45 per cent, but is precluded from doing so for two years following its June merger with Monsanto of the US. Nycomed has an option to buy 20 per cent of APB from P&U in June 2002, and the remainder in 2004.

Nycomed posted interim pre-tax profits up £6.5m at £97.8m on sales of £606m (£664m). Nycomed Imaging enjoyed operating profits up 19 per cent at £93m. Nycomed Life Sciences held operating profits flat at £29m following litigation against PE Corporation, APB's US rival, over dyes used in gene sequencing.

Nycomed shares closed down 52p at 646p.

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