Biotechnology company QLT Inc. reports $9.2 million net loss in fourth quarter

VANCOUVER – Biotechnology company QLT Inc. (TSX:QLT) reported a net loss of $9.2 million for the fourth quarter of 2012 as it took a restructuring charge of $2.6 million.

QLT, which has sold its main product line, generated income of $1.9 million for the three months ended Dec. 31 — $1.8 million of that related to contingency payments for Visudyne and Eligard.

The company sold Visudyne, its flagship product, to Valeant Pharmaceuticals Inc. (TSX:VRX) for $112.5 million. Visudyne combines an injectable drug and laser light to treat age-related macular degeneration.

The one-time heavyweight in Canada’s biotechnology has sold several parts of its business in recent years including its prostate cancer drug Eligard, which was acquired by Tolmar Hold Inc. in a US$230-million deal.

The $9.2-million loss, which included both continued and discontinued operations, amounted to 18 cents per share for the quarter, compared to a loss of $7.6 million or 13 cents per share in the year earlier period.

The loss from continuing operations amounted to $8 million for the quarter, up from $7.6 million year over year.

Research and development expenses, which now include only expenses from QLT’s synthetic retinoid program, were $5 million for the quarter, down from $6.3 million year over year.

For the full year, QLT reported a profit of $ 45.7 million, which included both continued and discontinued businesses, compared to a loss of $30.4 million in 2011. The company said it booked a pre-tax gain of $101.4 million on the divestment of the Visudyne business during the third quarter.

In December, QLT cut 27 jobs, or 42 per cent of its remaining workforce. The layoffs left just 38 employees at the company.

QLT said the remaining employees would be focused on the clinical development of synthetic oral retinoid program.

The cuts follow a move by QLT earlier last year to cut 146 of its 214 jobs at the time.

In September, QLT said it planned to buy back up to 3.4 million of its shares over the course of a year as the first step in a plan to return $100 million to stockholders.

On Thursday the company said that as of Feb. 18 it had bought back 3.15 million shares at an average price of $7.85 per share, for a total cost of $24.8 million.

Shares in QLT closed down 10 cents to $8.05 Thursday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.