Ablynx chooses Euronext for IPO

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In what will be one of the biggest listings in the sector since the August credit crunch, Ablynx, the Ghent-based antibody fragment company, is hoping to raise up to €99.2m ($142.8m) when it lists on Euronext next month.

Ablynx is setting the range for its listing at between €6.5 and €8.5 per share. The proposed offering will initially allow investors to subscribe to €75m of new shares, but if there is extra demand the group has the right to increase the offering by 15%. A further 15% can be made available in the form of a green shoe.

The offer period for Ablynx shares is set to run from October 22 to November 5, but if there is sufficient demand for the shares Ablynx could close it books on Monday October 29. The shares are expected to start trading on November 7.

More value through IPO

Established in 2001, Ablynx has developed a platform technology that produces antibody fragments from llamas, called Nanobodies, enabling it to generate potential treatments for a large range of illnesses.

Eva Lotta Allen, chief business officer at Ablynx, said the group had decided to pursue a float rather than a trade sale to optimise the value in the pipeline. Ms Allen said that existing shareholders, who include GIMV, Abingworth, Sofinnova and Alta Partners, would all be retaining their stakes in the company.

Recently, private biotechnology companies Praecis, Arrow Therapeutics and Kudos have all forgone listing plans and struck deals with big pharma, who stepped in with generous acquisition terms in a bid to fill their pipelines.

Funds for independent development

The money raised will be used to advance the group’s ambitious organic growth plans, which include the filing of five new investigational new drugs over the next five years. Ablynx will also be looking to continue independent development of ALX-0081, its most advance drug candidate, a treatment for acute thrombosis that reported interim phase I data in July.

The group has a number of collaborations with large pharmaceutical companies, including Wyeth and Novartis. In September, it struck a deal with Boehringer Ingelheim, to jointly discover and commercialise up to 10 Nanobodies for the German company. In return, Boehringer will invest €15m in the public offering, as well as paying up to €1.33bn in milestones and royalties.

Technology attracts big pharma

Ablynx is one of a growing number of antibody fragment companies. Danish company Genmab, is developing its Unibody platform, while US company Trubion is advancing its SMIP fragments and ESBAtech is exploring the use of ScFv.

Big pharma has also shown interest in the technology. In December 2006, GlaxoSmithKline paid £230m ($454m) to acquire Domantis, the maker of Domain Ab human antibody fragments.

Antibody fragments are attractive because their small size means that they are cheaper and easier to produce than larger monoclonal antibodies. They can also be combined to target more than one disease. Additionally, antibody fragments can be used in a variety of ways including orally, topically and sprayform, making them more versatile than monoclonal antibodies, which have to be injected.

JP Morgan Securities and KBC Securities are acting as joint global coordinators and bookrunners on Ablynx's IPO, with Kempen & Co and Piper Jaffray acting as co-managers.

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