Outside U.K., the blush is still on the rose


Outside U.K., the blush is still on the rose

OXFORD - Europe continues to send mixed signals. While the U.K. biotech sector is in the tank - the BioCentury London Index has declined some 25 percent over the first half - the market performance of companies on the continent has been fairly robust.

Indeed, the third quarter had barely opened last week when Pharming Holding N.V. stormed out with a $61.5 million IPO on EASDAQ, continuing the blue sky optimism reflected in the performance of key continental companies, including Innogenetics N.V. (EASDAQ:INNX), up 173 percent on the year; Genset S.A. (NM:GENSET; GENXY; up 51 percent); Qiagen N.V. (QGENF;NMkt:QIA; up 35 percent) and NeuroSearch A/S (CSE:NEUS; up 16 percent).

On the other hand, it seems impossible to underestimate the effect the affair at British Biotech plc (LSE:BBG; BBIOY) has had on U.K. market sentiment.

"British Biotech has clearly had an influence," said analyst Robert Sutherland-Smith of Quartz Capital Partners Ltd. "Its most recent troubles occurred just at the time smaller caps were reviving. The evident lack of management objectivity in a business like drug discovery, where trust plays a particularly important role, was damaging to investors psychologically. The British Biotech episode made life sciences look rather like Latin American mining exploration."

Jeremy Curnock Cook, head of the Rothschild Bioscience Unit, has no doubt that the U.K.

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