Hillhouse, Temasek-backed COVID vaccine developer Clover files for HK IPO

Photo: National Cancer Institute/Unsplash

Clover Biopharmaceuticals, a Chinese pre-revenue, clinical-stage biotech firm developing COVID-19 and other novel vaccines, has filed for an initial public offering (IPO) in Hong Kong.

Its prospectus filed with the Hong Kong stock exchange on April 23 is highly redacted. The firm is yet to reveal more detailed information, such as its offering price and targeted IPO size.

The firm is joining a growing number of Chinese biotech and healthcare companies to tap Hong Kong’s public market as the global pandemic has drawn a positive investment appetite for the areas.

According to official statistics, 23 healthcare firms completed their Hong Kong IPOs in 2020, raising a combined HK$98 billion ($12.6 billion), including 14 pre-revenue issuers which collectively raised HK$40 billion ($5.2 billion). These issuers span a wide range of sectors including biotech, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and services, digital health, and beyond.

Importantly, such a frenzy is expected to continue, as investors’ interest in these publicly traded firms has retained. Official statistics show that the share prices of these healthcare issuers rose by an average of 25% in 2020.

Backed by Asia-focused private equity (PE) powerhouse Hillhouse Capital and Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, Clover develops novel vaccines and biologic therapeutic candidates. The firm’s product pipeline includes COVID-19 vaccine candidate SCB-2019, which – it claims – could potentially become one of the first commercialised, protein-based COVID-19 vaccines globally.

Founded in 2007, Clover has developed a proprietary Trimer-Tag© technology platform for the creation of novel vaccines and biologic therapies. It can trimerise any protein of interest and target a broad spectrum of targets including enveloped RNA viruses like coronaviruses and influenza; and the tumour necrosis factor superfamily that is linked to certain cancers and autoimmune disorders.

Clover’s product portfolio. Source: Clover’s prospectus filed with the Hong Kong stock exchange on April 23, 2021.

Clover’s listing attempt comes only two months after it completed an oversubscribed Series B round at $230 million. The investment, which now can be considered as Clover’s pre-IPO round, was jointly led by Hillhouse’s venture capital arm GL Ventures and Temasek. Oceanpine Capital, OrbiMed, and Delos Capital joined the round.

The pre-IPO round brought Clover’s total financing scale in the past 12 months to over $400 million. But the firm is still in dire demand for more capital to finance its extensive R&D efforts. The firm registered a loss of nearly 912.9 million yuan ($140.7 million) in 2020, about 18 times over the 48.6 million yuan ($7.5 million) recorded in 2019, according to its prospectus.

It expects to continue to incur net losses, said the firm, “as we continuously advance research, conduct pre-clinical studies, conduct clinical trials, and seek regulatory approvals of our product candidates, maintain and expand our manufacturing facilities, and add additional infrastructures.”

Goldman Sachs and China International Capital Corporation (CICC) served as the joint sponsors of the IPO.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.