Clambering back - good news would help

OXFORD - Europe and the U.K. couldn't match the takeoff in biotech stock prices that occurred in the U.S. Nevertheless, both had a good year, with European biotechs now worth more than $17.7 billion compared with $10.7 billion at the end of 1998, with the final quarter accounting for much of that 48.6 percent increase in market value.

U.K. biotech stocks performed particularly well, with three-quarters of the 36 quoted companies posting increases in 1999. The market cap of the entire sector rose from £4.3 billion ($6.9 billion) at the end of 1998 to more than £6.6 billion ($10.7 billion). The BioCentury London Index, which measures the stock performance of 15 leading life sciences companies, rose 217 points (63 percent) to close at 561.3, adding 105 points in the fourth quarter alone. Nevertheless, the index is still 50 percent off its high of 1109 in February 1997.

During the fourth quarter, Cambridge Antibody Technology plc (LSE:CAT, Cambridge, U.K.) was one of the star performers even before announcing its Christmas drug development deal with G.D. Searle (see Technology Briefing, A13). Indeed, CAT's market cap more than trebled from

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