Making a name for itself in Covid-19 testing, Hong Kong's Prenetics is the latest biotech SPAC merger — report
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A Hong Kong biotech researching genetic sequencing and developing rapid Covid-19 tests is reportedly set to become the first billion-dollar startup in the city to go public.
Prenetics will hop onto Nasdaq through a SPAC, CNBC reported early Thursday, in a deal that will value the biotech at $1.3 billion. Founded by entrepreneur Danny Yeung, Prenetics will reverse merge with the SPAC Artisan Acquisition, which comes from the CEO of the Hong Kong conglomerate New World Development.
In the deal, Prenetics will get the $339 million raised in the SPAC, as well as another $60 million in PIPE financing. The merger is expected to be completed by the end of 2021, CNBC reported.
Prenetics could not be reached for comment. News of the deal came from an anonymous CNBC source, who requested not to be named to discuss the information publicly.
SPAC activity has slowed down significantly since the first quarter of the year, but the blank check companies have still steered more than $15 billion to the biotech sector, according to the Endpoints News tally.
The biotech has garnered significant publicity since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic thanks to its testing kits. Yeung, who serves as the CEO, has previously boasted that Prenetics’ Covid-19 kits are comparable in accuracy to lab-based PCR tests, better than antigen testing and can return results in 30 minutes.
Their tests, developed by University of Oxford researchers, use a technique involving loop-mediated isothermal amplification, according to a CNBC report from November.
Earlier in the pandemic, Prenetics distributed tests in Hong Kong’s airport and soon moved to London’s Heathrow Airport. It’s reportedly in discussions with other governments to expand testing to other airports.
The biotech also runs operations in the UK and worked with Britain’s top soccer association, the English Premier League, to restart their season after it had been suspended in March 2020. It’s further developing Covid-19 testing pods that it hopes to deploy outside office spaces in order to help businesses bring workers back from home full-time, according to The Guardian.
Prenetics’ plan is to set up the pods in parking lots near the buildings and have individuals schedule tests online before they come to work. They’d then take the tests prior to entering the office. Prenetics pods have already begun popping up around the UK, and the company is charging up to about $150 per test in the country.
Yeung has a history of serial entrepreneurism, having launched several startups in the past. In 2010, his online bulk-buying website uBuyiBuy was acquired by Groupon for an undisclosed amount, and he’s also franchised a Hong Kong dessert chain into the US.
He ultimately left Groupon in 2014, but oversaw a controversy in 2011 where his Hong Kong branch ran a commercial parodying celebrity public service announcements, per a report from the South China Morning Post. The ad reportedly suggested that despite Tibet’s struggle for independence, customers could still bargain-hunt at local restaurants.