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Open Orphan #ORPH – Major year-on-year revenue growth and profitable H1 2021 performance following a year of turnaround and transition in 2020

Open Orphan (AIM: ORPH), a rapidly growing specialist contract research organisation (CRO) and a world leader in vaccine and antiviral testing using human challenge clinical trials, announces its unaudited interim results for the six months ended 30 June 2021. These results show a continued pattern of profitability from Q4 2020 to a firmly profitable position delivering a positive EBITDA profit of £2.1 million compared to an EBITDA loss of £4.1 million in H1 2020. We look forward to achieving record revenues in 2021 in our first full year of EBITDA profitability with recent contract wins and exceptional pipeline growth fueling revenues into 2022.

In the past 12 months, the Company has received international recognition and media attention for its excellence in delivering human challenge studies as a partner in the world’s first COVID-19 human challenge characterisation study. The Company now has a broad range of human challenge study models, focusing on leveraging the major growth opportunities presenting in infectious and respiratory disease markets, including RSV, Influenza, Asthma, hRV, COPD and Malaria.

Profitable Financial Performance in H1 2021:

  • Continuing from a profitable Q4 2020, the Company has moved the business to a firmly profitable position with losses consigned to the past
    • 242% reported revenue growth in H1 2021 (£21.9m) versus H1 2020 (£6.4m). Other income grew to £1.2m in H1 2021 from £0.7m in H1 2020
    • EBITDA profit of £2.1m (2020: EBITDA loss of £4.1m)
    • Revenue has more than tripled reflecting six active challenge studies in H1 2021 vs two active challenge studies in H1 2020 and a solid performance in Early Clinical / Biometry Services
    • In H1 2021, non-COVID-19 related work accounted for 75% of revenues
    • Gross margin has grown from 6% to 28% of revenue, reflecting that the Company is driving substantial operating leverage through cross selling, restructuring, functional integration and operational productivity
  • Cash and cash equivalents were £14.9m at 30 June 2021, primarily reflecting the operating cashflow cycle of the business with new contract prepayments expected in H2 2021
  • The Company has executed a share capital re-organisation as an important enabler to progress the monetisation of non-core assets via distribution of dividend in specie. In June, it completed the first distribution in specie back to the shareholders worth £26.2m at 16 September 2021, in relation to the demerging of certain non-core assets into Poolbeg Pharma Limited (“Poolbeg Pharma”)


Open Orphan Plc Group

(Results as Reported)


6 months ended

30 June 2021


6 months ended

30 June 2020

Income Statement £’000 £’000
Revenue (incl. other income) 23,166 7,078
Gross Profit 6,041 390
Operating Profit (Loss) after exceptional items 1,629 (6,340)
EBITDA before exceptional items 2,073 (4,145)

Operational highlights

  • Delivered a strong and growing pipeline of new challenge study contract wins across a broadening range of challenge studies including influenza, RSV, hRV, Asthma, etc. Strong growth from Big Pharma clients which will deliver revenues across H2 2021 and into FY 2022
  • Continued to diversify services offering and associated activities such as virus manufacturing and lab services enabled by CAP and UKAS accreditations which are progressing, as well as the development of new challenge study models (Malaria, COVID-19) as part of its broadening portfolio of challenge models
  • Leveraged its state-of-the-art facilities, including the new 19-bedroom quarantine facility (Whitechapel Clinic) beside the existing 24-bedroom Queen Mary’s BioEnterprises Centre facilities also in Whitechapel (QMB). All COVID-19 characterisation study activities conducted in the 19-bedroom quarantine facility in Royal Free Hospital in London. We have delivered a record volume of quarantine studies on an increasingly cost-efficient basis with ample capacity to further grow the business
  • Increased volunteer recruitment capacity through the opening of a new volunteer screening centre in Manchester and also a new dedicated street level screening facility in QMB increasing screening capacity to 520 visits per week
  • Disease in Motion® launched as a first step towards its spin off as a standalone company, with the intention that the value will be delivered to our shareholders via dividend in specie in the same format as was successfully completed with Poolbeg Pharma plc. This unique data-focused platform has multiple infectious disease applications for a wide variety of end users including big tech, wearables, pharma and biotech companies

Post-period end

  • Multiple high value human challenge study contracts signed – £5.7m Influenza study (September 2021), £8.1m asthma study (August 2021), significant hRV & Influenza study (July 2021)
  • Successful Phase 2a RSV human challenge studies completed for a top tier pharma company and for Bavarian Nordic highlight the value of human challenge studies, their role in mainstream clinical trial design, and hVIVO’s industry leading position
  • Successfully monetised the first non-core asset via spin-out and AIM IPO of Poolbeg Pharma plc through a dividend in specie to Open Orphan shareholders, which was non-dilutive to existing shareholdings in the Company
    • As of 16 September 2021, the Open Orphan shareholders’ value in Poolbeg Pharma plc is £26.2
    • Poolbeg Pharma raised £25m in fresh funds from new investors in an IPO in July 2021
    • Created substantial value for Open Orphan shareholders who received these dividend shares in Poolbeg Pharma with no income tax due as part of a HMRC approved statutory demerger
  • Additional 1.3m shares in Open Orphan, valued at £350,000, purchased by Company Directors (Cathal Friel and Prof. Brendan Buckley)


  • Post-pandemic, the infectious and respiratory disease market is seeing exponential growth, with an expected global market value of $250bn by 2025. This is resulting in a vastly increased market for Open Orphan to test a new range of infectious and respiratory disease products as the world leader in the provision of human challenge studies
  • The Company is experiencing a major increase in negotiations, contract wins, and repeat contract wins with Big Pharma, while also seeing increased wins from biotech companies with major deals expected to now sign in Q4 2021 driving revenue in 2022
  • Open Orphan is expanding its focus and service offering in providing infectious and respiratory disease challenge studies
  • Full year guidance of c. £40m revenue (incl. other income) with full year EBITDA profitability for FY 2021, with non-COVID-19 work expected to represent c. 70% of FY 2021 revenue mix. While 2021 will represent record revenues for the Company and a return to full year EBITDA profitability, it is somewhat behind analyst expectations as the anticipated COVID-19 challenge studies will now likely commence in 2022 on foot of the successfully completed quarantine phase of the Human Challenge Programme characterisation study
  • Year-end cash balances expected to close in line with the half year position of £14.9m
  • Targeting revenues in the region of £50m for 2022 in non-COVID-19 work, reflecting signed contracts and contracts in advanced negotiations, ongoing momentum in the core business and ongoing market growth. COVID-19 revenue for 2022 will be in addition to this and will depend on the eventual timing of these studies
  • The Company continues to work towards the monetisation of all remaining non-core assets and to hand these back to Open Orphan shareholders via dividend in specie allowing the Company to focus on its core offering
    • These spin-offs / demergers offer an excellent opportunity for shareholders to maximise value in separate shareholdings in both exciting pharma product commercialisation companies, in addition to a profitable and world leading CRO
    • Opportunity to complete spin-off of Disease in Motion® platform along with plans to monetise the other non-core assets, namely the Company’s 62.6% stake in PrEP Biopharm, and 49% stake in Imutex Limited

Cathal Friel, Executive Chairman of Open Orphan plc commented:

Open Orphan has delivered very strong progress both operationally and financially. The Company’s H1 2021 revenues grew by 242% versus H1 2020, which continues a pattern of profitability from Q4 2020 and transitions the business to a firmly profitable position, having delivered a positive EBITDA profit of £2.1 million in H1 2021. The business is now well positioned to capitalise on the significant growth in the infectious disease market, which is expected to grow to in excess of $250bn by 2025 and we have seen our business development pipeline grow accordingly.

“I am delighted and hugely satisfied with the fantastic turnaround and team effort by everyone in the Open Orphan organisation; they have completely transformed the business following the acquisition of both hVIVO and Venn in the past two years. These two companies are now fully integrated and, in the process, we have created the world leader in the testing of vaccines, antivirals and other infectious and respiratory disease products using human challenge studies. With a broadening portfolio of human challenge studies, we are well placed to continue working with Big Pharma and biotechs alike to move their products through the clinic as the infectious disease market experiences one of the largest pharmaceutical growth cycles ever, with the market expected to grow significantly by 2025.  We look forward to further progress and a profitable H2 as the business continues to attract additional clients.

“Additionally, we will look to provide further shareholder value through the monetisation of our non-core assets, as we did post-year end with the successful spin-out, listing and distribution in specie of Poolbeg Pharma plc.”

Analyst Briefing

An online briefing for Analysts will be hosted by Cathal Friel, Executive Chairman, and Leo Toole, Group Chief Financial Officer, at 9.30am (BST) on 20 September 2021 to review the results and prospects. Analysts wishing to attend should contact Walbrook PR on openorphan@walbrookpr.com or on 020 7933 8780.

Investor presentation

OPEN ORPHAN PLC is pleased to announce that Cathal Friel and Leo Toole will also provide a live presentation relating to H1 2021 Interim Results via the Investor Meet Company platform on 20 September 2021 at 6:00pm (BST).

The presentation is open to all existing and potential shareholders.

Investors can sign up to Investor Meet Company for free and add to meet OPEN ORPHAN PLC via:


Investors who already follow OPEN ORPHAN PLC on the Investor Meet Company platform will automatically be invited.

For further information please contact:


Open Orphan plc +353 (0) 1 644 0007
Cathal Friel, Executive Chairman
Arden Partners plc (Nominated Adviser and Joint Broker)    +44 (0) 20 7614 5900
John Llewellyn-Lloyd / Louisa Waddell / Oscair McGrath
finnCap plc (Joint Broker) +44 (0) 20 7220 0500
Geoff Nash / James Thompson/ Richard Chambers
Davy (Euronext Growth Adviser and Joint Broker) +353 (0) 1 679 6363
Anthony Farrell
Walbrook PR (Financial PR & IR) +44 (0)20 7933 8780 or openorphan@walbrookpr.com
Paul McManus / Louis Ashe-Jepson / Sam Allen +44 (0)7980 541 893 / 07747 515 393 / 07502 558 258


Notes to Editors 

Open Orphan plc (London and Euronext: ORPH) is a rapidly growing pharmaceutical service/contract research company that is a world leader in testing vaccines and antivirals using human challenge clinical trials. The Company provides services to Big Pharma, biotech and government/public health organisations.

Open Orphan runs challenge studies in London from both its 19-bedroom Whitechapel quarantine clinic and its state-of-the-art 24-bedroom QMB clinic with its highly specialised on-site virology and immunology laboratory. Open Orphan has a leading portfolio of human challenge study models for infectious and respiratory diseases and is developing a number of other models. There has been an explosion in the growth of the infectious disease pharmaceuticals market, which is estimated to grow to in excess of $250bn by 2025. The Group is focused on refreshing its existing challenge models and develop new models, such as Malaria, to address the dramatic growth potential of the global infectious disease market.

Building upon its many years of challenge studies and virology research, the Company is developing an in-depth database of infectious disease progression data. Based on the Company’s Disease in Motion® platform, this unique dataset includes clinical, immunological, virological and digital (wearable) biomarkers. The Disease in Motion platform has many potential applications across a wide variety of end users including big technology, wearables, pharma and biotech companies.

Open Orphan’s Paris office has been providing biometry, data management and statistics to its many European pharmaceutical clients for over 20 years. For over 15 years, the Company’s Netherlands office has been providing drug development consultancy and services, including CMC (chemistry, manufacturing and controls), PK and medical writing, to a broad range of European clients. Both offices are now also fully integrated with the London office and working on challenge study contracts as well as supporting third party trial contracts.


Open Orphan plc (ORPH) Demerger Update

Demerger Update

Further to Open Orphan’s announcement on 14 June 2021 in relation to the distribution in specie, the boards of Open Orphan and Poolbeg Pharma are pleased to announce Poolbeg’s intention to seek admission of its shares to trading on AIM, a market of the London Stock Exchange (“Admission”). Funds raised as part of Admission will be used primarily to fund the clinical trial costs associated with the development of the Company’s POLB 001 asset as a treatment for severe influenza and to acquire and develop new portfolio assets.


Wide asset portfolio

  • Attractive lead asset  POLB 001:
    • First-in-class, Phase II ready small molecule immunomodulator for severe influenza.
    • Addresses unmet need for effective treatments against severe influenza (c. $800m addressable market)
    • Applications beyond influenza are possible with label extensions (and the Company holds worldwide rights for all uses)
  • Vaccine Discovery Platform harnessing data from the human challenge model to potentially discover new vaccines which the Directors believe could generate significant shareholder value
  • PredictViral™ Biomarker platform for predicting severe disease – potential to transform the way infectious diseases are treated
  • Licensed access to one of the largest infectious disease progression data and bio banks i.e. Open Orphan’s data and biobank, with the potential to interrogate the data with an AI data analysis platform (advanced discussions underway) to accelerate the identification of drug targets / products
  • Pipeline of further assets for acquisition post-IPO


Infectious Disease Market

  • Market expected to exceed $250bn by 2025
  • Cumulative costs of the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of lost output & health reduction is equivalent to 90% of US GDP ($16tn)
  • Significant recent M&A and licensing activity in the infectious disease space


Capital light business model

  • Enables the Company to develop assets to Phase II quickly with relatively modest investment where they can potentially be monetised / licensed to big pharmaceutical companies
  • Platform for growth with a proven, streamlined method of identifying drugs to acquire / license, access to key data to drive that platform and well protected intellectual property
  • Faster and more cost-effective development model than traditional biotech’s giving potential for multiple value inflection points as each asset is advanced through the pipeline with a view to ultimate monetisation / licensing to big pharmaceutical companies
  • Intend to use contingent payments to fund asset acquisitions therefore minimising / eliminating potential equity dilution


Track Record

  • Strong heritage – initial assets from Open Orphan, a well-established, revenue generating business with over 20 years’ experience in infectious diseases and human challenge trials
  • Track record of delivery and creating value for shareholders – management team has completed three IPOs, built revenue generating businesses and achieved significant exits


Poolbeg IPO

  • Signal of quality to prospective partners and customers, raising the profile of the business
  • Provides a supportive platform on which to accelerate existing assets through development
  • Funds raised will allow the Company to acquire / license additional assets and technologies as appropriate
  • A portion of the Placing is expected to qualify for EIS and VCT related tax relief in addition to an expected retail offering via PrimaryBid
  • Cathal Friel, Non-Executive Chairman of Poolbeg has committed to participate in the IPO alongside incoming investors on the same terms


Jeremy Skillington, PhD, CEO of Poolbeg Pharma said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed the issue of infectious diseases firmly in the public eye; Governments and international organisations are now investing heavily to ensure they are better prepared.

“Poolbeg Pharma is aiming to carve out a leading position in this rapidly evolving and expanding sector. We have an excellent heritage in infectious diseases and a management team with a track record of delivering value creation.

“Our capital light business model is an important differentiator. Through deep biological analysis of disease progression, we believe that it should enable us to reposition existing drug candidates and develop assets to Phase II stage quickly with relatively modest investment where they can then potentially be acquired / licensed to big pharmaceutical companies. We aim to be customer-led and will use our extensive network to become a ‘one stop shop’ for big pharma, developing the assets that they need.”


Cathal Friel, Executive Chairman of Open Orphan and Non-Executive Chairman of Poolbeg Pharma commented:

“Poolbeg Pharma is a great opportunity to maximise the potential of some of Open Orphan’s pharma assets which are non-core to our successful human challenge clinical trial business in a focused and capital efficient way.

“Poolbeg’s approach to asset development should result in good licensing opportunities and excellent returns in a relatively short period of time with substantially less risk than the traditional biotech model and allow for regular investor newsflow. In addition, in Poolbeg we have assembled a leading management team, generated an exciting pipeline of potential acquisitions and entered advanced discussions with leading AI data analysis platforms to increase the attractiveness of the Company and its offering. Thus, I am confident and excited in the Company’s prospects going forward and will be personally investing alongside incoming investors as part of the potential IPO.

“We are extremely proud that this is now the third life science IPO from the Raglan Capital stable after Amryt Pharma plc and Open Orphan plc, and we are excited to have Jeremy Skillington joining as CEO, bringing his valuable experience and  successful track record with Inflazome to the team.”

– Ends –


Open Orphan plc

Cathal Friel, Executive Chairman


+353 (0) 1 644 0007

Arden Partners PLC (Nominated Adviser & Joint Broker)

John Llewellyn-Lloyd, Richard Johnson, Oscair McGrath


+44 (0) 207 614 5900

finnCap Ltd (Joint Broker)

Geoff Nash, James Thompson, Charlie Beeson 


+44 (0) 20 7220 0500

Davy (Euronext Growth Adviser and Joint Broker)

Anthony Farrell


+353 (0) 1 679 6363

Walbrook PR (Financial PR & IR)

Paul McManus / Louis Ashe-Jepson / Sam Allen

+44 (0)20 7933 8780 or openorphan@walbrookpr.com

+44 (0)7980 541 893 / 07747 515 393 / 07502 558 258 

Open Orphan (ORPH) Final Results to 31 December 2020

Final Results to 31 December 2020

Important year of transition following the various merger and acquisition activities in 2019 and January 2020

Open Orphan (AIM: ORPH), a rapidly growing specialist pharmaceutical services clinical research organisation (CRO) and a world leader in vaccine and antiviral testing using human challenge clinical trials, announces its audited results for the 12 months to 31 December 2020. Following the acquisition of hVIVO in January of last year, 2020 was a year of transition for the Company with management integrating both businesses and driving improvements in revenue, gross margin and efficient overheads.

This culminated in Q4 2020 proving to be an inflection point for the Company as it successfully generated both an operating profit and positive cashflow. In addition, the Company ended the year with a strong order book of contracted revenue which has been the foundation for the Company’s very strong start to 2021. In the context of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic and broader growth of the global infectious disease market, this should translate into very strong growth opportunities for the Company going forward.

Operational highlights:

  • Integration of hVIVO and Venn Life Sciences completed with pharmaceutical services business now profitable and poised for strong revenue and EBITDA growth in 2021; growing working capital balance on hand
  • Clearly established as the world leader in the testing of vaccines and antivirals through the use of human challenge study clinical trials
  • Strategy in place to maximise shareholder value via the demerger of non-core assets with first spin-out Poolbeg Pharma Ltd well under way
  • In the last 12 months substantially increased the number of quarantine beds available to Open Orphan:
    • Original 24 quarantine beds in Queen Mary’s BioEnterprises Centre (QMB) in Whitechapel
    • 19 bed additional beds through the conversion of the Whitechapel Hotel
  • Open Orphan has the capacity to screen in >500 volunteers per week to support a growing pipeline of human challenge studies.
    • New state-of-the-art volunteer recruitment screening centre on the ground floor of QMB
    • New standalone regional volunteer recruitment screening centre in Manchester
  • Strategic decision In March 2020 to develop a COVID-19 challenge model:
    • hVIVO was uniquely placed to contribute to a world-first initiative led by the UK government to work as part of the Vaccine Task Force’s Human Challenge project to manufacture a COVID-19 virus, and to collaborate on the design and delivery of a characterization study to understand how to use this virus for vaccine and anti-viral challenge trials, which is ongoing.
    • Collaboration is ongoing with significant progress achieved to enable the Group to test vaccines and therapeutics against COVID-19 in the near future.

Financial highlights

Open Orphan plc Group

(Results as Reported)


(Proforma results on a stand-alone basis for a full year)


Open Orphan plc

(formerly Venn Life Sciences Holdings plc – Proforma results on a stand-alone basis for a full year)

Open Orphan DAC

(Proforma results on a stand-alone basis for a full year)

Open Orphan plc Group

(Proforma results on a combined basis for a full year)











Income Statement





















Revenue (Incl. other income)









Operating (Loss)











EBITDA before exceptional items











Loss for period












  • An important year of transition to reverse the proforma losses in 2019 by strengthening business development, restructuring underperforming businesses, driving cross group synergies, eliminating unnecessary layers of management, and integrating support functions across the Group.
  • Significantly improved track record of major contract wins in 2020 (versus 2019) setting the scene for strong revenue growth in 2021
  • Turnaround on track evidenced by an operating profit delivered for Q4 2020 and targeting full year profitability in 2021
  • Cashflow positive in Q4 2020 driven by advanced cash payments on major agreements.
  • Pharmaceutical services business (the combined business of Venn and hVIVO) is operationally profitable and moving into cash generation.
  • Well capitalized following two placings raising a combined total of £17.9m (before expenses)
  • Cash and cash equivalents of £15.1m as at 31 May 2021
  • Proforma revenues of £22.4m (2019: £23.7m), with losses reduced to £11.3m (2019: £14.5m)
  • Reported revenues of £22.0m (2019: £3.5m), with a reported loss for the period of £10.8m (2019: £5.7m)


  • Clinical Science Teams and Laboratory Development Teams continue to address ground-breaking research projects with major pharmaceutical players – strong demand for services expected.
  • Planned demerger strategy is progressing well with further update provided today on Poolbeg Pharma
  • Demergers offer an excellent opportunity for shareholders to maximise value through separate shareholdings in a profitable pharma services company as well as exciting pharma products commercialisation companies.
  • Opportunity to progress Disease in Motion® platform.
  • Targeting delivery of full year profit in 2021 – focusing on enhancing profits and earnings

Cathal Friel, Executive Chairman of Open Orphan plc commented: “The Group is not simply satisfied to have returned to a positive operating position at the end of 2020 and to be targeting to deliver a full year profit in 2021, it is now focused to further enhance the quality of profits and earnings of the Group going forward. Therefore, notwithstanding the strategic investments we are making in new challenge models and the Disease in Motion® platform, we will relentlessly focus on cross selling our services across our broad client base, leveraging technology to drive improved efficiencies, and stripping away unnecessary cost in our operations.”

“It has been a remarkable year and I am grateful to our team for their hard work and loyalty. I am also grateful to you, our shareholders for the faith you have placed in the Group. The new financial year has started well and is already very well advanced. We are confident that the actions we are taking now to drive our core CRO business and monetise non-core assets should create significant value for all our stakeholders.”

The Company’s Annual Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 December 2020 will be posted to shareholders in due course together with the notice of the 2021 Annual General Meeting], and will be available on the Company’s website,  https://www.openorphan.com/

Analyst Briefing

An online briefing for Analysts will be hosted by Cathal Friel, Executive Chairman, and Leo Toole, Group Financial Officer, at 11.00am on Thursday 17 June 2021 to review the results and prospects. Analysts wishing to attend should contact Walbrook PR on openorphan@walbrookpr.com or on 020 7933 8780.

Investor presentation

OPEN ORPHAN PLC is pleased to announce that Cathal Friel and Leo Toole will also provide a live presentation relating to Final Results 2020 via the Investor Meet Company platform on 17th Jun 2021 at 6:00pm BST.

The presentation is open to all existing and potential shareholders.

Investors can sign up to Investor Meet Company for free and add to meet OPEN ORPHAN PLC via:


Investors who already follow OPEN ORPHAN PLC on the Investor Meet Company platform will automatically be invited.

For further information please contact:

Open Orphan plc

+353 (0) 1 644 0007

Cathal Friel, Executive Chairman

Arden Partners plc (Nominated Adviser and Joint Broker)

   +44 (0) 20 7614 5900

John Llewellyn-Lloyd / Richard Johnson / Oscair McGrath

finnCap plc (Joint Broker)

+44 (0) 20 7220 0500

Geoff Nash / James Thompson/ Richard Chambers

Davy (Euronext Growth Adviser and Joint Broker)

+353 (0) 1 679 6363

Anthony Farrell

Walbrook PR (Financial PR & IR)

+44 (0)20 7933 8780 or openorphan@walbrookpr.com

Paul McManus Louis Ashe-Jepson / Sam Allen

+44 (0)7980 541 893 / 07747 515 393 / 07502 558 258  

Open Orphan (ORPH) Investor Presentation June 2021

Open Orphan (ORPH) Investor Presentation June 2021.

Open Orphan PLC (ORPH) Exercise of Warrants and Issue of Shares

Open Orphan, a European-focussed, rare and orphan drug consulting services platform, announces that the Company has received notices of exercise of warrants over 539,654 ordinary shares of 0.1 pence each in the capital of the Company (“Ordinary Shares”) at a price of 0.1 pence per share for 191,051 ordinary shares and at a price of 2.2 pence per share for 348,603 ordinary shares. The gross proceeds of this exercise received by the Company amounts to £7,860.33.

Following the warrant exercise, the outstanding warrants over Ordinary Shares are as follows:

Number of Ordinary Shares Exercise Price per share Expiry Date
166,666 30 pence 6 June 2021
1,950,803 0.1 pence 10 December 2023
3,559,543 2.2 pence 10 December 2023
1,607,142 5.6 pence 27 June 2024

Total Voting Rights
The Company has made application for 539,654 new Ordinary Shares, to be issued and allotted as a result of the warrant exercise set out above, to be admitted to trading on AIM and Euronext Growth.  Admission is expected to occur at 8.00 a.m. on 30 July 2019.

Following the admission of 539,654 new Ordinary Shares, the Company’s total issued ordinary share capital will consist of 254,032,913 Ordinary Shares. This figure may be used by shareholders as the denominator for the calculations by which they will determine if they are required to notify their interest in, or a change to their interest in, the Company under the Financial Conduct Authority’s Disclosure Guidance and Transparency Rules.


Open Orphan Plc Tel: +353 1 5499 341
Cathal Friel, Chief Executive Officer

Arden Partners (Nominated Adviser and Joint Broker) Tel: +44 (0)20 7614 5900
John Llewellyn-Lloyd / Ruari McGirr / Benjamin Cryer

Davy (Euronext Growth Adviser and Joint Broker) Tel: +353 (0)1 679 6363
Anthony Farrell (Corporate Finance)

Camarco (Financial PR) Tel: +44 (0)20 3757 4980
Tom Huddart / Billy Clegg / Daniel Sherwen

Notes to Editors:

Open Orphan plc is a European-focussed, rare and orphan drug consulting services platform. The Company consists of four elements: a European clinical research organisation and consultancy; an orphan drug services business; a Virtual Rep and Data Access Platform consisting of physicians and key opinion leaders; and a Health Data Platform to partner with Patient Advocacy Groups. The Company is targeting rapid growth in one of the fastest growing sectors in the global pharmaceutical industry targeting under-supplied treatment for life threatening or very serious diseases and rare disorders.


Ken Baksh: August Investment Review….Stay with equities versus bonds….for the time being!

August  2018 Market Report

During the month to July 31 st, 2018, major equity markets displayed a stronger trend and the VIX index fell significantly, indicative of a preference for greater risk-taking. There continued to be an abundance of market moving news over the period whether at corporate, economic or political level.

The European Central Bank appeared to become more certain of removing QE over coming quarters but delaying any interest rate increase until 2019, while economic news was generally dull. Political events were not in short supply, and in Turkey for example, dramatically affected bond and currency markets. European leaders and policy makers are having an uncharacteristically active summer, with debates on US tariffs, immigration, Japanese trade pact and post Brexit implications just four of the more topical issues.  US market watchers continued to grapple with ongoing tariff discussions, Federal Budget, Iranian nuclear/sanctions, NAFTA friction and North Korean meeting uncertainty as well as domestic issues. Economic data and corporate results so far have generally been above expectation.  In the Far East, North and South Korea made faltering progress towards an agreement while China flexed its muscles in response to Trump’s trade and other demands and relaxed bank reserve requirement late in the month. Chinese economic growth slowed slightly while there was a little speculation that the Bank of Japan may tweak it’s QE programme.  The UK reported mixed economic data with satisfactory developments on the government borrowing side, inflation slightly lower than expected, but poor relative GDP figures and deteriorating property sentiment, both residential and commercial. The data and ongoing Brexit confusion appear to be keeping the MPC in a wait and see mode regarding interest rates, although mathematically the’ hawks’ are gaining ground. An important day for MPC policy statements tomorrow (2nd August).

Aggregate world hard economic data continues to show steady expansion, excluding the UK, as confirmed by the IMF and the OECD with some forecasts of 2018 economic growth in the 3.3% to 3.6% area, a little lower than January forecasts. Fluctuating currencies continued to play an important part in asset allocation decisions, the stronger US dollar again being the major recent feature recently, although lagging the yen year to date. Government Bond holders saw modest price falls over the month. Of note was the large jump in the Japanese Government Bond Yield. Oil was the main commodity feature during the month, falling after the long rally seen so far this year. Tariffs, whether actual or rumoured, are continuing to bear on certain metals and soft commodities, the latter also responding to extreme weather conditions. The price of wheat for example has climbed nearly 30% so far this year.

At the end of the seven-month period, “mixed investment” unit trusts show a very small positive price performance, with technology and most overseas equity regions showing above average performance, and bonds, Asia-excl Japan and Emerging markets in negative territory. Source Trustnet:01/08/2018


Global Equities rose over the month the FTSE ALL World Index gaining 3.43% in dollar terms and now showing a positive return since the beginning of the year. The UK broad and narrow market indices lagged other major markets over the month in local terms and have underperformed in both local and sterling adjusted values from the end of 2017.Asia and emerging markets were the relative underperformers and declined in absolute terms while Europe jumped quite strongly, although the DAX Index is still down in absolute returns since the beginning of 2018. In sterling adjusted terms, America has jumped to the top of the leader board year to date, largely helped by the technology component (NASDAQ up 10.9%) and a recently strengthening dollar. The VIX index while still up about 30% from the year end, dropped 13% over the month, as “risk on “trades returned.

UK Sectors

Sector volatility picked up during the month, influenced by both global factors e.g. commodity prices, tariffs, as well as corporate activity and ex-dividend adjustments. Utility stocks fell over 4%, while pharmaceuticals gained 5.8 %, largely on encouraging results and lingering corporate activity. Over the seven-month period, pharmaceuticals are outpacing the worse performing major sector, telecommunications by nearly 33%.

Fixed Interest

Gilt prices fell marginally over the month and are now down 1.64% year to date in capital terms, the 10-year UK yield standing at 1.39% currently.  Other ten-year yield closed the month at US 2.97% Japan, 0.06% and Germany 0.33% respectively.  UK corporate bonds remained broadly unchanged, ending July on a yield of approximately 2.75%. Amongst the more speculative grades, emerging market bonds fell while US high yield rose, in price terms. Floating rate and convertible bond prices showed mixed performance over the month. See my recommendations in preference shares, convertibles, corporate bonds, floating rate bonds etc. A list of my top thirty income ideas (all yielding over 5%) from over 10 different asset classes is available.

Foreign Exchange

Amongst the major currencies, a stronger dollar was the major monthly feature rising largely on relative economic news. Sterling fell versus the dollar while rising against the Yen and Euro. Currency adjusted, the FTSE World Equity Index is now outperforming the FTSE 100 by over 3% since the end of 2017.Just over two years since the BREXIT vote, the FTSE has risen by about 19% compared with the 32% gain in sterling adjusted world indices.


A generally weak month for commodities with the notable exception of some of the softs, the latter largely reflecting weather conditions! Over the year so far, oil seems to be stabilising over $70, while gold, falling on the month and year-to date languishes at around $1223 currently.

Looking Forward

Over the coming months, geo-political events and Central Bank actions/statements will continue be key market drivers while early second quarter company results will likely add some additional volatility. With medium term expectation of rising bond yields, equity valuations and fund flow dynamics will also be increasingly important areas of interest/concern.

US watchers will continue to speculate on the timing and number of interest rate hikes 2018/2019 and longer-term debt dynamics, as well as fleshing out the winners and losers from any tariff developments (steel, aluminium, EU, China,NAFTA)-a moving target! Additional discussions pertaining to North Korea, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and Trump’s own position could precipitate volatility in equities, commodities and currencies. In Japan market sentiment is likely to be influenced by economic policy and Abe’s political rating. It will be interesting to see if there is any follow through from recent BoJ speculation regarding bond yield policy. Recent corporate governance initiatives e.g. non-executive directors, cross holdings, dividends are helping sentiment. European investment mood will be tested by economic figures (temporary slowdown or more sustained?), EU Budget discussions, Italian, Turkish and Spanish politics, and reaction to the migrant discussions.  Hard economic data and various sentiment/residential property indicators will continue to show that UK economic growth will be slower in 2018 compared to 2017, and further down grades may appear as anecdotal second quarter figures trends are closely analysed. Brexit discussion have moved to a new level, discussions on the “custom union” being currently hotly debated. The current perception of a move to a “softer” European exit will inevitably lead to pressure from many sides.   Political tensions stay at elevated levels both within and across the major parties and considerable uncertainties still face individual companies and sectors. Industry, whether through trade organizations or directly e.g. Bae, BMW, Honda, Ryanair is becoming increasingly impatient, and vocal, and many London based financial companies are already “voting with their feet”.

On a valuation basis, most, but not all, conventional government fixed interest products continue to appear expensive against current economic forecasts and supply factors, and renewed bond price declines and further relative underperformance versus equities should be expected in the medium term, in my view. See my recent ‘iceberg’ illustration for an estimate of bond sensitivity. Price declines are eroding any small income returns leading to negative total returns in many cases.  On the supply point there are increasing estimates of US bond issuance against a background of diminished QE and overseas buying. European bond purchases are expected to wind down later this year.

Equities appear more reasonably valued, apart from some PE metrics, (especially in the US), but there are wide variations, and opportunities, in both broad asset classes. Equity investors will be looking to see if superior earnings growth can compensate for higher interest rates in several areas. Helped in no small part by tax cuts, US companies have been showing earnings growth more than 20% so far this year, although the current quarter is widely expected to be the peak comparison period, and ‘misses’ are being severely punished e.g. Facebook and Twitter.   Corporate results from US, Europe and Japan have, on aggregate, been up to expectations over the current period.

Outside pure valuation measures, sentiment indicators and the VIX index are showing significant day to day variation, after the complacency of last year. The current level of 13.23 appears rather low in the context of potential banana skins.

In terms of current recommendations,

Continue to overweight equities relative to core government bonds, especially within Continental Europe and Japan. However, an increased weighting in absolute return and other vehicles may be warranted as equity returns will become increasingly lower and more volatile and holding greater than usual cash balances may also be appropriate. Among major equity markets, the USA is one of the few areas where the ten-year bond yields more than the benchmark equity index. The equity selection should be very focussed. Certain equity valuations are rather high, especially on a PE basis (see quarterly), although not in “bubble” territory. A combination of sharper than expected interest rate increases with corporate earnings shocks would not be conducive to strong equity returns. Ongoing and fluid tariff discussions could additionally unsettle selected countries, sectors and individual stocks Harley Davidson, German car producers, American and Brazilian soy producers etc.

  • UK warrants a neutral allocation after the strong relative bounce over the quarter on the back of stronger oil price, sterling weakness and corporate activity. Ongoing Brexit debate, political stalemate and economic uncertainty could cause more sterling wobbles, which in turn could affect sector/size choices. I would expect to see more profits warnings (Countryside,Foxtons,H&M- latest casualties) and extra due diligence in stock/fund selection is strongly advised.
  • Within UK sectors, some of the higher yielding defensive plays e.g. Pharma, telco’s and utilities have attractions relative to certain cyclicals and many financials are showing confidence by dividend hikes and buy-backs etc. Oil and gas majors may be worth holding despite the outperformance to date. Remember that the larger cap names such as Royal Dutch and BP will be better placed than some of the purer exploration plays in the event of a softer oil price. Mining stocks remain a strong hold, in my view (see my recent note for favoured large cap pooled play). Corporate activity, already apparent in the engineering (GKN), property (Hammerson), pharmaceutical (Glaxo, Shire?), packaging (Smurfit), retail (Sainsbury/Asda) is likely to increase in my view, although the Government has recently been expressing concern about overseas take-overs in certain strategic areas.
  • Continental European equities continue to be preferred to those of USA, for reasons of valuation, and Central bank policy, although political developments in Italy, Spain and Turkey should be monitored closely. Improving economic data adds to my enthusiasm for selected European names, although European investors may be advised to focus more on domestic, rather than export related themes. Look at underlying exposure of your funds carefully. Remember that certain European and Japanese companies provide US exposure, without paying US prices. I have recently written on Japan, and I would continue to overweight this market, despite the large 2017 outperformance. Smaller cap/ domestic focussed funds may outperform broader index averages e.g. JP Morgan Japanese Smaller Companies and Legg Mason.
  • Alternative fixed interest vehicles, which continue to perform relatively well against conventional government bonds, have attractions e.g. floating rate funds, preference shares, convertibles, for balanced, cautious accounts and energy/ emerging/speculative grade for higher risk. These remain my favoured plays within the fixed interest space. See recent note
  • UK bank preference shares still look particularly attractive and could be considered as alternatives to the ordinary shares in some cases. If anything, recent sector “news” has highlighted the attractions of the sector.
  • Alternative income, private equity and renewable funds have exhibited their defensive characteristics during recent equity market wobbles and are still recommended as part of a balanced portfolio. Many of these are already providing superior total returns to both gilts and equities so far this year. Reference could be made to the renewable funds (see my recent solar and wind power recommendations). Results from Greencoat on February 26nd and Bluefield Solar the following day reinforce my optimism for the sector. Selected infrastructure funds are also recommended for purchase after the recent Corbyn/Carillion inspired weakness (see note). The take-over of JLIF during the month highlights the value in the sector!
  • Any new commitments to the commercial property sector should be more focussed on direct equities and investment trusts than unit trusts (see my recent note comparing open ended and closed ended funds), thus exploiting the discount and double discount features respectively as well as having liquidity and trading advantages. However, in general I would not overweight the sector, as along with residential property, I expect further price stagnation especially in London offices and retail developments e.g(Hammerson,Intu). The outlook for some specialist sub sectors and property outside London/South-East, however, is currently more favourable. Investors should also consider some continental European property See my recent company note.
  • I suggest a selective approach to emerging equities and would currently avoid bonds. Although the overall valuation for emerging market equities is relatively modest, there are large differences between individual countries. A mixture of high growth/high valuation e.g. India, Vietnam and value e.g. Russia could yield rewards and there are signs of funds moving back to South Africa on political change. Turkish assets seem likely to remain highly volatile in the short term. As highlighted in the quarterly, Chinese index weightings are expected to increase quite significantly over coming years and Saudi Arabia, is just being allowed into certain indices.

Full third quarter report is available to clients/subscribers and suggested portfolio strategy/individual recommendations are available. Ideas for a ten stock FTSE portfolio, model pooled fund portfolios (cautious, balanced adventurous, income), 30 stock income lists, hedging ideas and a list of shorter term low risk/ high risk ideas can also be purchased, as well as bespoke portfolio construction/restructuring.

Good luck with performance!   Ken Baksh 01/08/2018

Independent Investment Research

Ken has over 35 years of investment management experience, working for two major City institutions between 1976 and 2002.

Since then he has been engaged as a self-employed investment consultant. He has worked with investment trusts, unit trusts, pension funds, charities, Life Fund,hedge fund and private clients. Individual asset managed have included direct equities and bonds pooled vehicles currencies, derivatives and commodities.

Projects undertaken in a number of areas including asset allocation, risk control, performance measurement, marketing, individual company research, legacy portfolios and portfolio construction. He has a BSc(Mathematics/Statistics) and is a Fellow Member of the UK Society of Investment Professionals.

Phone 07747 114 691




All stock recommendations and comments are the opinion of writer.

Investors should be cautious about all stock recommendations and should consider the source of any advice on stock selection. Various factors, including personal ownership, may influence or factor into a stock analysis or opinion.

All investors are advised to conduct their own independent research into individual stocks before making a purchase decision. In addition, investors are advised that past stock performance is not indicative of future price action.

You should be aware of the risks involved in stock investing, and you use the material contained herein at your own risk

The author may have historic or prospective positions in securities mentioned in the report.

The material on this website are provided for information purpose only.

Please contact Ken, (kenbaksh@btopenworld.com) for further information

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