Oxford Molecular slides on interim loss

SHARES IN Oxford Molecular crashed to their lowest level in almost three years yesterday after the supplier of information technology systems to pharmaceutical companies reported poor interim results.

The group doubled its pre-tax loss to pounds 2.2m in the first six months of the year. Revenue was also disappointing, rising 25 per cent to pounds 7.7m. The company's own target was a 30 per cent increase.

Oxford Molecular shares slumped 16 per cent to close at 154p. They have lost more than 65 per cent of their value since they hit 450p in February. The company floated in 1994 at 80p.

Tony Marchington, the chief executive and founder, blamed the performance on the decision by a large US drug company to delay the signing of a $4.5m (pounds 2.8m) contract. He said the unnamed customer's desire to upgrade a previous $1.5m contract had stalled completion until the second half.

However, he said Oxford Molecular would recover in the second half, boosted by the delayed contract and a large number of smaller deals with large pharmaceuticals customers. "Our order book is extremely strong, stronger than it's ever been," said Mr Marchington.

The company was set to sign "three or four contracts of at least $1m and dozens for around pounds 500,000," he said. This would enable the company to meet analysts' forecasts of pounds 1.5m profit at year-end.

The chief executive complained that the market's reaction overlooked the seasonal nature of the business. "We have two-thirds of the business in the second half," he said, because of the spending patterns of customer companies. Mr Marchington said the company would prosper in coming years as the market for pharmaceutical IT was "on the verge of an explosion".