SAN DIEGO, Feb 17, 2004 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ -- Mera Pharmaceuticals (OTC Bulletin Board: MRPI) today announced its results for its fiscal year 2003 on form 10-KSB, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Company's assessment of its results was upbeat.
"We showed improvement in virtually all of the most important areas," said Daniel P. Beharry, chief executive officer of Mera. "Revenues were up and expenses were down as we continued to strengthen our balance sheet. We reduced our operating loss to just over $2 million, 12% less than in 2002, and we cut our net loss to $1,832,000, a reduction of nearly 24%. The company's performance was more positive than those results suggest, as we took charges for non-recurring items totaling more than $350,000. If the effect of those one-time items is factored out, Mera had its best year ever. Another indicator of our progress is that cash used in operations dropped to below $1.1 million, 60% less than last year.
"In the fourth quarter we maintained tight controls on expenses while revenues continued to grow," he continued. "A more active program of advertising and promotion led to an increase of sales in Hawaii, our major retail market, and we are in discussions to increase the number of outlets in which AstaFactor(R), our branded astaxanthin nutritional supplement, is available. That should help product revenues continue their upward trend.
"We think the greater issue for Mera at this point is not a lack of demand, but keeping pace with demand that is being generated by food and nutritional companies that are beginning to incorporate astaxanthin into their products. For that reason, we intend to resume cultivation and processing at full capacity by the end of March."
The company received investment at the end of the year that will enable it to take a number of positive actions. Said Mr. Beharry, "Those actions include an increase in our sales and marketing activity and the development of a new product that we expect to have on retail shelves and available for direct sales in late April or early May.
"We have also identified opportunities for improvement in our production process that are expected to increase current capacity by more than 40%. These measures are the result of a focus on containing costs and increasing efficiencies. Combined with construction of additional finishing pond space, they will allow us to double the output from our Kona facility. Only modest capital expenditures will be needed to achieve that increased output. The expansion of capacity will permit not just an increase in revenues. It will also make virtually every aspect of our operations more efficient. As our unit production costs drop and overhead per unit of production is cut nearly in half, we should make considerable progress toward profitability, provided we meet our sales targets."
Gregory F. Kowal, chairman of Mera's board, echoed that outlook. "I am very pleased with the continued improvement in operational results during the second half of 2003. This is due in large measure to the dedication and loyalty of all our employees and especially to Dan Beharry and his management team. Without their leadership, Mera could not have made the progress it has.
"Growing customer acceptance of our line of AstaFactor products and the value of Mera's proprietary technology make the goal of profitability very realistic. Our fundamentals have continued to improve on a quarterly basis. Efforts to improve shareholder value are paying off, and I believe that Mera's future holds great promise.
Mera Pharmaceuticals, Inc., based in Kona, Hawaii, is a drug discovery and nutraceutical company with a focus on identifying and producing valuable products from the rich, untapped resource of microbial aquatic plants. Long recognized for their potential medical and nutritional value, these plants have been largely ignored because of the virtual impossibility of growing them at commercial scale. Mera has overcome that obstacle through application of its patented photobioreactor technology, which allows Mera to produce a large number of species at scale reliably, efficiently and at high quality. Mera's first nutraceutical product, the AstaFactor(R), is a concentrated source of natural astaxanthin, found in a number of fish and seafood species. Astaxanthin is known to be an effective anti-inflammatory and an extremely powerful antioxidant.
This press release contains forward-looking statements characterized by the use of words such as "believe," "expect," "anticipate," "feel" and similar expressions. Actual results might differ materially from those projected in, expressed in or implied by the forward-looking statements. The kinds of risks and uncertainties that could affect the future operating results of Aquasearch include, without limitation: (i) the ability to attract new business for its existing products; (ii) the ability to identify new products and bring them to market; (iii) the ability to identify promising pharmaceutical candidates and, if they are identified, the ability to have them successfully complete the clinical trial process; (iv) the sensitivity of Aquasearch to general economic conditions; (v) the inability to attract the additional investment needed to plans regarding the drug discovery and development business. Additional information concerning risk factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those described in forward-looking statements can be found in Aquasearch's SEC filings, including its Annual Report on Form 10-KSB and other periodic reports that it files under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended.