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Æterna forms separate unit for cosmetics/nutrition business; SGF SOQUIA and Fonds de solidarité FTQ invest $10 million

Investment in new Atrium Biotechnologies subsidiary to fund growth

Québec, January 24, 2000 - Æterna Laboratories (TSE: AEL) announces the reorganization of its cosmetics and nutrition business as a separate subsidiary called Atrium Biotechnologies. Æterna will maintain control of this subsidiary, valued at $45 million, holding a 77.8% interest. Æterna also announces that SGF Soquia Inc. and Fonds de solidarité FTQ have invested a total of $10 million in Atrium Biotechnologies to help fund acquisitions of new technologies or companies in the cosmetics and nutrition ingredient areas.


SGF Soquia Inc., a branch of Société générale de financement du Québec, has invested $7.5 million to hold 750,000 shares or 16.7% of Atrium Biotechnologies. Fonds de solidarité des travailleurs (FTQ) and Fonds d’investissement bioalimentaire have invested $2.5 million to hold 250,000 shares or 5.5% of Atrium Biotechnologies.


"With the beginning of Phase III clinical trials for Æ‑941/Neovastat and the fact that we are in our strongest financial position ever, this is a good time to make the cosmetics and nutrition division a separate business unit having the mandate to develop its full potential," said Dr. Éric Dupont, President and Chief Executive Officer of Æterna Laboratories. Æterna has $40 million in cash, as well as contributions of up to $29.7 million from the Government of Canada, and a financial support of $5‑10 million from the U.S. National Cancer Institute. With a separate management team and the capital infusion of $10 million, Atrium Biotechnologies will now have all its own resources to be successful," said Dr. Dupont.


"Société générale de financement du Québec, through SGF Soquia Inc., is proud to be associated with Atrium Biotechnologies, a dynamic company with strong potential in developing and manufacturing biotechnology-derived active ingredients. Atrium’s innovative products, combined with its network of partners in North America, Europe and Asia allow us to anticipate interesting economic repercussions", said Claude Blanchet, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of SGF.


"Atrium Biotechnologies is now well positioned to acquire other technologies and participate actively in the consolidation of this industry," said Raymond Bachand, President and CEO of Fonds de solidarité FTQ. "This structuring investment should create jobs and be a determining factor in the development of the region of Quebec, as well as for all other investments made by Fonds de solidarité FTQ and its network in this area. Such investments are possible thanks to the solidarity of the Quebecers who subscribe to the registered retirement savings plan of Fonds de solidarité FTQ."


"Atrium Biotechnologies’ growth will occur primarily by acquiring other companies or product lines," said Luc Dupont, President and Chief Executive Officer of Atrium Biotechnologies. "We also plan to in-license new technologies and co-develop them with multinational companies, as we have already done successfully with Estée Lauder. The development and commercialization of any new product will benefit from our established relationships in the cosmetics business and our strong international distribution network in the nutrition area," said Mr. Dupont.


Æterna Laboratories Inc. is a Canadian biopharmaceutical company focused on the development of new therapies to treat a variety of conditions, principally cancer. Æterna’s lead compound, Æ‑941, is an angiogenesis inhibitor being investigated in three major indications: oncology, dermatology and ophthalmology.


Atrium Biotechnologies, a subsidiary held at 77.8% by Æterna, is involved in the development and marketing of active ingredients and products used in the cosmetics and nutrition fields.


SGF Soquia is a subsidiary of SGF. The mission of SGF is to carry out economic development projects, in cooperation with partners and in accordance with accepted requirements of profitability, particularly in the industrial sector. Since 1985, SGF has generated approximately $6.7 billion in investments, resulting in the creation of 22,000 direct and indirect jobs. At December 31, 1998, SGF’s consolidated assets totalled $1.8 billion. Morever, the consolidated assets of companies in which SGF holds interests total $10 billion. SGF is associated with 35 international partners conducting business operations in Quebec.


Æterna is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol AEL.


Æterna’s news releases and additional information are available on its website at www.aeterna.com


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Source : 


Janet Craig
Director of Corporate Communications and Investor Relations
Æterna Laboratories Inc.


Danielle Dussault
Coordinator - Communications and Public Relations SGF Soquia inc.
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