Singapore’s ASLAN Pharma completes $33m IPO in Taiwan

A biological testing process underway at a personal products lab. Photo: Bloomberg

Singapore-headquartered biotechnology company ASLAN Pharmaceuticals, which focuses on the development of immunotherapies and targeted agents for Asia prevalent tumour types, has concluded an initial public offering (IPO) of common shares via public lottery.

The company on Wednesday issued 2,602,000 shares for the public draw at the offer price of NT$68.92. The results of the public lottery saw 76,377 qualified deals with a lot winning rate of 3.4 per cent. The shares were 29.4 times oversubscribed.

In aggregate, ASLAN raised a total of NT$1 billion ($33 million) from the IPO process. Trading of shares on the Taipei Exchange (TPEx) will commence on 1 June 2017. According to an earlier report, the business was targeting a fundraise of $40 million through its IPO.

Dr Carl Firth, chief executive of ASLAN Pharmaceuticals, said in an official statement:  “The conclusion of the public lottery represents the successful closing of our initial public offering, an important milestone in ASLAN’s development. ”

“We are delighted to have attracted such strong investor support, it is a significant endorsement of our strategy, pipeline and team.  We now look forward to focusing on executing our clinical development and commercialization strategy as we prepare to initiate global pivotal studies of varlitinib,” he adds.

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Taiwan’s biotech listings

Recent years have seen the Taipei Exchange emerge as premier listing destination for biotechnology firms, since Taipei identified biotechnology as the next engine of growth for the Taiwanese economy back in 2002.

In an interview with DEALSTREETASIA, Dr Firth had explained: “Taiwan is actually one of the leaders in terms of biotech listings and is very welcoming to foreign issuers. Out of 17 biotech companies currently in the queue for IPOs around the world, seven are in Taiwan! Taiwan’s equivalent of NASDAQ, the Taipei Exchange, actually has better liquidity for major biotech names than most other Asian and European bourses, and at times overtakes NASDAQ.”

Taiwan’s capital markets have also liberalised since 2008, as part of Taipei amending listing rules to actively encourage foreign businesses to list in Taiwan, as well as relaxing restrictions on the qualifications of foreign issuers and the use of raised funds.

According to a report by PWC Taiwan, Taiwan’s advantage relative to larger stock exchanges in Greater China, such as Shanghai and Hong Kong, lies in how it serves a broad array of high-tech industries ranging from information technology, communications, and and biotechnology to consumer goods and the auto parts sectors.

With these well-developed industry clusters, Taiwan’s capital market is suited to market listings by companies from an array of industries due to the comparables. By comparison, Shanghai’s capital market is “centred around large state-owned enterprises that cater to domestic demand,” while Hong Kong’s market is dominated by financial and real estate firms, catering to large-scale enterprises.

However, in July 2016, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Taiwan deputy chairman Audrey Tseng issued a warning for investors to be cautious with biotechnology stocks, noting that the sector was unpredictable and that the main factors in assessing the viability of a biotech firm as an investible asset were its growth prospects, technical capacity, and capital reserves.

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