Basilea CFO quits two months after CEO

Thu Feb 7, 2013 5:10am EST

Related Topics

* CFO to leave company, follows Dec departure of CEO

* Basilea expects potential ceftobiprole approval in Q4 2013

* 2012 net loss 53 mln Sfr vs poll forecast of 63 bln

* Shares rise 1.6 pct

ZURICH, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Swiss biotech group Basilea said its chief financial officer was leaving the company just two months after the departure of the firm's founder and chief executive.

Joachim Blatter, a German citizen who had been in the role for little more than a year, is leaving the company to pursue other opportunities, the firm said as it posted a smaller than-expected loss for 2012.

The departure is the latest in a string of shake-ups at the Basel-based firm. Ronald Scott, who was previously chief operating officer, took over the helm at the start of this year after founder and former boss Anthony Man decided in December to leave the company for personal reasons.

Scott denied the departures were due to conflict among management: "There's no disharmony," he told reporters on a conference call in response to a question about the reason for the departures.

Sarasin analyst David Kaegi said the announcement was surprising but not a large problem for the company.

"Ron Scott was CFO before for many years so he's very familiar with the financials," said David Kaegi, who has a 'buy' rating on the stock.

Shares in the group, which have surged some 20 percent since mid-December, were trading up 1.59 percent at 51.20 Swiss francs by 1005 GMT.

Basilea is facing a crucial year as it waits regulatory approval for its antibiotic drug ceftobiprole. The company is in the process of answering questions from European agencies on the drug and said any possible approval could come in the fourth quarter.

The firm has been hunting for a partner for ceftobiprole - which it hopes will make it to market to treat hospital and community-acquired pneumonia - for several years and said it was aiming for a partnership by the end of 2013.

"If things go quickly then I would hope that we could have a transaction by the end of year or at the latest at the beginning of next year," Scott told reporters on a conference call.

The company is also awaiting data from two late-stage studies for antifungal isavuconazole, a treatment for both mould and yeast infections, with Japan's Astellas and is developing other earlier stage products in anti-infectives and oncology.

Basilea's finances got a welcome boost midway through last year when GlaxoSmithKline bought its hand eczema drug Toctino for an initial $227 million to pump up its Stiefel dermatology business.

The company posted a net loss of 53 million Swiss francs ($58.21 million) in 2012 compared to a loss of 57.6 million francs a year ago. Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast a loss of 63 million on average.

Basilea, which is worth $530 million, has often been touted as a takeover target and rumours have circulated in recent weeks that a big biotech may have set its sights on the Basel-based firm.

Scott said he did not know where the speculation came from, but the prospect of ceftobiprole approval and isavuconazole data could have triggered analyst and media interest in the company. ($1 = 0.9105 Swiss francs) (Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters)

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