Belfast Telegraph

Invest NI chasing up £275k loan to failed Belfast drug testing company

By Margaret Canning

Economic development agency Invest NI has said it's claiming back a 'buying time' loan of £275,000 to a failed Belfast drugs testing operation.

Bio-Kinetic Europe in Great Victoria Street went bust in October after a litany of problems including a shareholders' dispute, loss of a £1m contract and two failed sale attempts.

The firm was set up in 1996 and carried out clinical trials for drug companies in Europe, the US and Japan. In one of its final trials it tested treatments for type 2 diabetes on patients.

An administrators' report by business advisers HNH Partners filed at Companies House cites sales of £2m in the six months to the end of August, but a net loss of £0.8m.

The report revealed that the withdrawal of a second buyer led to directors appointing administrators.

The administrator is now in the process of selling subsidiary Bio-Kinetic Healthcare, which operates a Bupa health screening centre. Bupa said it was business as usual at the Great Victoria Street centre.

Alan Cole, head of Bupa partnership centres, said: "Our Belfast health centre is currently open as normal, offering a range of health services including health assessments and physiotherapy appointments."

There was no one available for comment from administrators HNH.

Armstrong Auctions has valued plant and equipment at £76,000.

The report revealed that Bio-Kinetic Europe was damaged when a £1m contract was withdrawn in early 2017.

"The last minute cancellation... left a material shortfall in budgeted revenue which could not be replaced in the short-term," it said.

But the report claimed that the shareholder dispute at the end of 2016 was the start of the firm's problems, as it distracted directors' attention away from the running of the company.

The disagreement led to legal action being brought by former director Moira Burke against the company and its two directors, Dr David Bell and Crawford MacLean. The three each own 33% shareholdings in the company.

The Court Service confirmed yesterday that the claim is still active.

The administrators' report said that a "large European competitor" had confirmed it would buy Bio-Kinetic Europe in July, before withdrawing without explanation in September.

Another company also showed an interest in the firm, but withdrew around the middle of October.

Just four years ago Bio-Kinetic Europe was named best small/medium sized business at the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards.

Invest NI yesterday confirmed it was attempting to recoup the £275,000 loan.

It said: "Invest NI has submitted its claim to the administrator, the outcome of which is in the hands of the administrator."

Belfast Telegraph

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