Pandemic fears force Chinese biotech to postpone Hong Kong IPO meetings — Bloomberg
At the same time the coronavirus outbreak originating from Wuhan is boosting shares prices of a raft of (mostly overseas) drugmakers, it appears to have also forced at least one domestic biotech to slow down its IPO plans in Hong Kong.
InnoCare Pharma — a Beijing-based company focused on cancer and autoimmune diseases with a lead drug now lined up at China’s regulator — has decided to postpone investor meetings intended to gauge demand for the HKEX listing, Bloomberg reported. According to anonymous insiders, InnoCare had planned to raise about $200 million.
Depending on whether and how quickly a pandemic ensues, this could mark the first of many IPO disruptions.
While the major ports between mainland China and Hong Kong remain open for the time being (a controversial arrangement in the supposedly semi-autonomous city), many of the institutional investors backing public debuts and the bookrunners they hire are in crisis mode.
Banks have started to ask employees coming back from mainland China to work from home for two weeks — roughly the incubation period for the 2019-nCoV — potentially making meetings with company execs difficult. Furthermore, travel restrictions have put face-to-face discussions on hold, with one European banker telling Bloomberg that he’s going to stay overseas for longer.
But a couple of pharma companies already listed, whether in Hong Kong or mainland China, offered some rare bright spots amid a catastrophic rout for China’s stock market once it reopened following the 10-day Lunar New Year holiday.
Ascletis, the first pre-revenue biotech to join the HKEX, enjoyed a 19% surge to HK$4.95 after it notified investors that it’s coordinating with medical institutions to launch clinical trials of its experimental combo of ASC09 and ritonavir. It continues an upward trend that began days ago when the biotech said it’s submitted an emergency use application to the National Medical Products Administration to use the therapy, originally designed for HIV, as a treatment for the 2019-nCoV infection.
Well-known players such as Shanghai Pharma, Harbin Pharmaceutical Group and Hansoh also scored single-digit gains, despite not ostensibly doing anything to combat the coronavirus.
It didn’t float all boats, though. Despite announcing that it’s set up a dedicated team to enable development of neutralizing antibodies to the virus, WuXi Biologics shares stayed somewhat flat at HKD$99.65.
In its filings from October InnoCare indicated that it would allocate much of the IPO proceeds to its lead drug, orelabrutinib, a BTK inhibitor that’s been accepted by the NMPA for review in relapsed or refractory chronic lymphoblastic leukemia and small lymphoblastic lymphoma. Two other clinical-stage assets target pan-FGFR and FGFR4, respectively, followed by six drug candidates execs want to bring into Phase I.