Benchmark looks forward to growth

Benchmarks research facility in Ardtoe, ScotlandBenchmarks research facility in Ardtoe, Scotland
Benchmarks research facility in Ardtoe, Scotland
Biotech firm Benchmark Holdings, which develops vaccines to keep fish healthy rather than using antibiotics to treat disease, has more than halved its annual losses as it gears up for growth.

The Sheffield-based firm said it helps make the food chain more ethically sound, economically viable and environmentally sustainable. Its major focus is on treating fish such as salmon at a time when fish has overtaken beef globally as a source of protein.

Benchmark anticipates making a pre-tax profit in 2019 after investing heavily in research and development in aquaculture (fish farming).

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The group reported a 28 per cent increase in revenue to £140.2m in the year to September 30. Like-for-like sales rose 13 per cent.

Following a £21.5m investment in state-of-the-art production capacity in genetics and animal health and a £15.2m investment in research and development, the loss for the year was £7.1m, a reduction of 61 per cent on 2016.

Adjusted ​pre-tax profit​ ​(before amortisation, exceptional items and acquisition related expenditure​) rose from £5.2m to £6.3m.

​Benchmark​‘s​ CEO​ ​Malcolm Pye​ said: ​“2017 has been a year of significant operational and strategic progress for Benchmark Holdings.

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​“​Benchmark​ ​is now one of the leading global providers of advanced nutrition, genetics and animal health in the industry.​“

​He said the organic growth delivered in the year and the achievement of significant milestones, together with the​ ​increased activity in many of ​the g​r​oup’s​ key markets at the end of the year ​“​leaves us full of confidence​”​ going into​ ​the new financial year.

​“​The growing global demand for aquaculture products, the disease​ ​challenges faced, and pressure to limit the use of antibiotics, puts the group in a strong position to drive growth for many years to come​,” he added.​

Chairman Alexander Hambro​ said there is an element of unpredictability in the introduction of new and innovative technologies.

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​“​For example, delays to introducing new products and the impact of both disease​ ​and climate have both been challenges for the business over the last year​,” he said.​

​“​However, I have been impressed​ ​with our ability to overcome these challenges during the year and believe that as the business has become​ ​more diversified, in the future it will be more able to mitigate these risks.

​“​What is predictable is that the​ ​demand for our products, driven by growth in demand for our customers’ products, is showing long term​ ​growth.​“

T​he group​ recently announced successful first​ ​commercial field trials of Ectosan, ​its​ new sea lice treatment for the salmon industry​. Ectosan​ passed its first​ ​field trials ​with​ 100​ per cent​ efficacy and no environmental impact ​thanks to Benchmark’s purification system,​ ​CleanTreat.

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​“​This marked a breakthrough development for Benchmark and for the salmon industry, for which​ ​sea lice is the biggest disease challenge, estimated to have cost the industry ​around ​$500m at current market prices​ ​in 2016​,” said Mr Hambro.

“CleanTreat will, we anticipate, set a new standard in environmental protection​ ​by allowing marine fish medicines to be delivered safely and without in any way contaminating the marine​ ​environment.​“

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