Management of listed Dunedin probiotic manufacturer Blis
Technologies put forward a buoyant and confident front
yesterday, at its annual shareholders meeting in the city.
Sales were up in several sectors and countries, in-house
controlled manufacturing in Dunedin was beginning to make
commercial headway and numerous international product trials
were showing positive results.
While the company was not quite running to budget so far this
year, Blis chief executive Dr Barry Richardson reiterated he
expected revenue to double this year to about $2.5 million
and that Blis would be ''near breakeven'' for the current
Arguably, a series of forthcoming product trials in China by
Blis' partner and major shareholder, pharmaceutical giant
Sinopharm, could become a defining moment for Blis, which has
had more than its fair share of regulatory hurdles to
overcome in its quest to enter global markets.
The probiotics target general oral health using lozenges,
powders and additives to numerous dairy products.
Sinopharm, with a annual turnover of $NZ21 billion, has more
than 800 pharmacies across China and in a forthcoming trial
over the next four to five months, Blis' product will go into
30 pharmacies across three Chinese cities.
While Dr Richardson said the capital raising and subsequent
new partner-shareholders were ''significant'' for Blis, its
focus for the year remained on expansion.
He said US sales were down because of access issues but were
improving, as were sales in Finland and Israel. Japanese
customer numbers were up and volumes across Europe were
''The China trials are to come and we expect them to be of
significant benefit,'' Dr Richardson said.
Blis shareholders have been long-suffering, as in the past
more than 10 years the company has chewed through research
and development funding of about $30 million, while never
booking a profit.
While Blis had a healthy capital raising of $3.65 million to
cover costs and future marketing purposes, its languishing
shares peaked at 2.9c in November but in recent months have
been around 1.5c.
Dr Richardson was upbeat about three ''costly trials''
undertaken by an Italian customer, the first two of which
achieved more than 90% effectiveness. The third was double
the size of the first trials and, importantly, also came back
with a more than 90% result.
One shareholder yesterday was obviously impatient with
repeatedly being told of good results from trials, and
questioned why these results did not prompt automatic
acceptance in new and expanding markets.
Chairman Peter Fennessy replied that the scientific sector
was, in general, having issues with major acceptance trials
of many products, in that the results on offer could not be
''You've now got to go bigger and bigger and bigger [with
trials] ... because you need the associated regulatory
approvals. That's why the Italians did three trials,'' he
When shareholders further questioned what had changed, given
Blis was available 10 years ago, Mr Fennessy highlighted it
was still in development then and without a shelf life, which
had since changed. And in the past three years, probiotics
was now widely recognised internationally.
Dr Richardson said the move from premises at the University
of Otago to Birch St, in Dunedin, put Blis on a ''new
commercial footing'' in that it gained the profit margins
from manufacturing that would have otherwise gone to
When questioned by a shareholder, Dr Richardson said less
than 100% of product was being manufactured by Blis, because
it was using two outside contractors to ''cultivate strains''
of probiotics. Customers preferred this, knowing there were
two sources available to the company.