Hong Kong strife holds up almost $100M of BioNTech's Series B haul
Late on Monday, it was revealed that German cancer drug developer BioNTech is eyeing a $100 million public listing in the United States, two months after the cancer-focused company unveiled a herculean $325 million in an upsized round of financing.
In the IPO filing, however, the Mainz-based drug developer revealed that shares worth about $97 million that were expected to be bought by an undisclosed Hong Kong-based investor have been delayed, in part due to the political unrest in Hong Kong and the ongoing trade dispute between the United States and China.
“(T)he payment may be indefinitely delayed, or potentially not received at all. In the event that this investor is not able to fund the purchase of the shares and we do not make alternative arrangements for the purchase of the shares, we may demand that the shares be transferred back to us for no consideration. We intend to make use of this right in case the funds have not been paid by the anticipated public offering,” the filing said.
The trade tension between China and the United States has reverberated in the biopharma industry.
Last year the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) — a federal interagency committee chaired by the US Treasury Department — expanded its review of foreign investment in the biotechnology sector, citing national security reasons, triggering concern that US biotechs may have trouble accessing Chinese money.
And in recent months, MD Anderson Cancer Center sanctioned five of its own researchers — three of whom were ethnically Chinese — for purportedly violating conflict of interest policies, alleging ‘foreign influence’, after the NIH requested the institution investigate their conduct.
BioNTech’s July round of Series B fundraising — marking one of the largest single private funding rounds for a European biotech — was upsized and led by Fidelity Management & Research. New and existing investors participated, including Redmile Group, Invus, MiraeAsset Financial Group, Platinum Asset Management, Jebsen Capital, Steam Athena Capital, BVCF Management and the Struengmann Family Office. Two-thirds of the funding came from new investors, BioNTech said.
Jebsen Group, the parent company of Jebsen Capital, is based in Hong Kong. BVCF Management says it was founded as China’s first US dollar fund.
Founded in 2008, BioNTech counts the Strüngmann group, a family firm led by German billionaires and identical twins Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann, as its largest shareholders and the source of BioNTech’s initial seed capital.
Most of BioNTech’s clinical assets are messenger RNA therapies (mRNA), a family of treatments in which a natural system is harnessed to send the body a signal to produce its own drug — in this case, to fight cancer. The company also has cell therapies and antibodies in its arsenal. Altogether, the company has 20 product candidates, of which eight have entered into nine ongoing clinical trials. BioNTech’s competitors, such as CureVac and the unicorn Moderna $MRNA — which recently pulled off a historic $604 million US IPO — are squarely focused on mRNA.
Helmut Jeggle, who is responsible for the life science initiatives of the Strüngmann brothers, holds about 50.35% of BioNTech’s shares, while the company’s CEO Ugur Sahin has a 18.80% stake.