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Comvita Announces Shareholding In Medical Honey Co


Comvita Announces Shareholding In Medical Honey Company

Comvita New Zealand announced today it has purchased a 50 per cent shareholding in Cambridge based Api-Med Medical Honey Limited, a company whose medical grade honey products are being trialed in hospitals and clinics in the UK.

Api-Med is a joint venture between WaikatoLink, the commercial arm of the University of Waikato, and the manuka honey marketing company Bee and Herbal New Zealand Ltd. Under the terms of the agreement, Bee and Herbal's health food business will merge with Comvita which will acquire all of the former's assets including its internationally recognised health food brand, 'Medi-Bee'.

The technological advance of honey as a practical and effective medical device is a key business strategy of Api-Med. This device is a manuka honey-based wound dressing incorporating advanced alginate technology in which the healing product is manufactured into a firm, user-friendly gel. New Zealand manuka honey with the UMF (unique manuka factor) rating is gaining worldwide recognition for its effectiveness in treating wounds.

Api-Med, in conjunction with its UK manufacturing partner Brightwake, recently achieved the CE mark, widely recognised as the medical device milestone and the UK registration which allows manuka honey dressings to be marketed directly to hospitals and clinics.

To support this, Api-Med has developed its Medical Honey Accredited Supplier Programme to ensure that only the highest quality honey is put forward to support what it describes as a unique, global market opportunity for manuka honey as a bone-fide medicine. Api-Med's plans include worldwide distribution into key medical markets.

Bee and Herbal's owner-operators Phil and Sharan Caskey say UMF manuka honey is becoming one of the most exciting natural products on the market for wound treatment.

They claim that not only has Api-Med been instrumental in developing the commercial pathway for honey as a medical device technology, but Bee and Herbal has successfully developed an auditable quality supplier system that involves landowners and beekeepers in the supply of high quality medical grade honey to the marketplace.

Comvita CEO Graeme Boyd says the opportunity to purchase a shareholding in such an innovative and aligned business as Api-Med is one his board and management team recognised as significant for the further development of unique products of New Zealand origin.

"The potential for these products in the medical honey field is huge," says Boyd. "They demonstrate the ability of natural products companies with strong research and development programmes to compete in the medical field.

"Comvita will add organisational and management strength to the company as well as providing access to growth capital through its planned listing on the New Zealand Stock Exchange's new AX market in November.

"Bee and Herbal's business is strategic to Comvita. Their 'Medi-Bee' brand of manuka honey already has a very strong position in the UK health market and in Australia."

Gary Betteridge, CEO of WaikatoLink, says the Api-Med development is a significant commercialisation of the university's intellectual property in the use of honey in wound care.

"Our partnership with Bee and Herbal has seen the project develop from a concept to the stage where it is now very close to full commercialisation on a global scale," says Betteridge. "We now feel it is appropriate to let private companies get on with the production, marketing and sales of the technology."

Betteridge says one of the most pleasing aspects is that Comvita's involvement ensures the ownership of the technology remains firmly in New Zealand hands.

END

Contact details follow

For more information, please contact:

Alan Bougen phone +64 021 386 972 or email alan.bougen@comvita.com

Phil Caskey phone +64 027 442 2451 or email philc@apimed.co.nz

For press information contact: Lance Morcan +64 7 571 4203 or email lance@carlinvalenti.com

Note: Photographs can be supplied electronically

Comvita Fact Sheet follows

Fact Sheet Comvita New Zealand Limited

Comvita had its beginnings in the beekeeping interests and nutritional philosophies of its founder Claude Stratford. Claude (92) who started the business at the age of 64. Using nature's gifts from the honeybee as key ingredients, Comvita makes natural healthcare products to the highest quality standards.

The company's philosophy is based on the belief that prevention is better than cure. This philosophy is reflected in its products for immune-boosting, digestive health and general wellness. Much of its new product development is focused on holistic health solutions that address conditions synonymous with ageing.

Comvita's manufacturing plant at Paengaroa, in the Bay of Plenty, is licensed and audited to the internationally-recognised GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) standard.

Today, Comvita employs more than 80 people in New Zealand, Australia and Japan. Its specialist teams work alongside scientists and research organisations to create safe, effective health solutions based on the very best natural ingredients New Zealand has to offer.

Comvita has been the recipient of many awards including Kiwifruit Coast Business of the Year Best Export Business 1991, BOP Export Institute Exporter of the Year 1991 and '99, NZ Honey Food & Ingredient Innovation Award 1994, Air New Zealand Export Excellence Regional Exporter 1996, British Airways Asian Export Award 1996, Best Regional Business of the Year 2001 and the 2003 Consumer Products Exporter of the Year in the Trade New Zealand National Export Awards.

A listing on the Unlisted Securities Market in September 2002 - with a fully imputed one for six bonus issue - signalled a major step forward for Comvita. Sales in 2002 were up 14 per cent on the year before with international sales growing strongly.

Comvita is currently taking steps toward listing on the NZX's new AX market.

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