March 26, 2020 / 2:07 PM / 9 days ago

UPDATE 1-Medical technology firm IBA says stays operational amid outbreak

(Adds CEO comments on coronavirus, operations)

March 26 (Reuters) - Belgian medical technology company Ion Beam Applications said on Thursday that its supply chains and operations were for the most part still running amid the coronavirus outbreak.

"We're not in business as usual," the group's chief executive officer Olivier Legrain told Reuters. "From an operational standpoint we're not fully operational but we're let's say 90% operational."

Commenting on the pandemic which has infected more than 470,800 worldwide, Legrain said that decentralised operations and inventories had allowed IBA to keep all its proton therapy centres, which treat cancer patients using super-precise radiation beams, open and generating revenue.

"As of today we haven't identified any gap in our supply chain that would force us to stop, but having said that we have suppliers in regions like Italy and so we need to keep an eye on that," he added.

Commenting on a supplier in northern Italy, which makes parts of magnets used in proton therapy, he said that IBA had sufficient inventory to cope with probably a month of closure, but was looking at helping partners come back online and finding alternative options.

"When you take cancer patients, it's very important and also life-saving for them to pursue the treatment," he added. "We see recruitment is decreasing a bit, but not dramatically and I don't expect it to change."

Earlier on Thursday, the group reported a full-year profit before interest and taxes (REBIT) of 87,000 euros ($94,986.60), after a profit of 5.7 million euros a year earlier and noted improved net debt position.

Legrain said the group could have posted a better result by accelerating order fulfillment, but since that would entail spending more on materials to complete projects, it had gone slower to better manage its cash position. He said that at 85 million euros now, the position was "extremely good for us as we enter into the Covid-19 uncertainty period."

IBA had forecast a positive REBIT and said the results reflected gross margin weakness, partly as a result of pricing pressure, amid an increasingly competitive market. (Reporting by Sarah Morland in Gdansk Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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