Neptune Technologies temporarily abolishes chief operating officer position

MONTREAL – Neptune Technologies & Bioressources Inc. says it is temporarily abolishing the position of chief operating officer until production resumes at a rebuilt plant that was destroyed late last year by a deadly explosion.

Company president and CEO Henri Harland will assume the responsibilities of Michel Chartrand, who will remain a board member.

As part of a management reorganization, its directors, senior management and employees have accepted a 20 per cent reduction in salaries while it works on a plan to resume production at the facility in Sherbrooke, Que.

The changes were announced about a week after the company said a large asset writedown linked to the fatal explosion in November pushed its net loss to $12.4 million in the third quarter.

The Montreal-area diet supplement maker also said its insurer had confirmed the impending first payment of $6 million resulting from the accident that killed three and injured 18.

Neptune also said Thursday that the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office has allowed a second continuation patent application for krill oil products sold in the United States despite objections raised by Norwegian competitor Aker Biomarine ASA.

The company said it is becoming more and more difficult for its competitors to “downplay or disregard” Neptune’s patent holdings.

“Despite the tragic events suffered by Neptune on Nov. 8, we are committed to maintaining our pioneering role in the krill oil industry and we intend to fully enforce our patents against anyone who infringes,” added Tina Sampalis, chief global strategy officer.

Neptune expects the new plant will have a capacity to produce about 150,000 kilograms of krill oil per year and may be operational within six to nine months from the announcement of its reconstruction plan.

Following the explosion, the company laid off more than 70 employees in Sherbrooke and at its Laval head office. About 30 plant employees continue to work on the plant’s reconstruction.

Neptune is a biotechnology company that primarily develops and commercializes marine-derived omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. It has a patented process of extracting oils from Antarctic krill, which is then sold as a dietary supplement capsule, primarily to distributors in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, Neptune’s shares gained 12 cents, or 4.72 per cent, at $2.66 in Thursday morning trading.