WuXi AppTec eyes acquisitions after $1bn Hong Kong IPO

Chinese biotech WuXi AppTec has completed its listing on Hong Kong’s HKEX, raising $967m just months after making its debut on the Shanghai exchange.

The company – which provides contract research, development and manufacturing services to pharma, medical device and biotech firms – said the new proceeds would be used to expand its global presence, which could include acquiring smaller outsourcing companies. It has driven the value of the company up above the $10 billion mark.

The fundraising comes shortly after WuXi AppTec opened a new facility in San Diego focusing on small-molecule drug development – providing services such as screening, discovery biology, pharmacology and process R&D, as well as small-scale manufacturing for early-stage clinical trials – and a new medical device testing facility in Suzhou.

WuXi AppTec’s chief executive Dr Ge Li said the capital unlocked by the HKEX listing would help the company “continue to enhance the capability and capacity of our platform”, with investments planned for new capacity in both China and the US, as well as on new technologies and “fostering” healthcare start-ups.

“We will continue to enhance the capability and capacity of our platform to enable our collaborative partners worldwide,” said Li, adding: “We aspire to foster a networked healthcare ecosystem, where scientists and entrepreneurs are empowered to participate.”

Shares in the company surged after it listed in Shanghai in May and raised $353 million, but didn’t do so well in Hong Kong, ending the day fractionally up on their opening price.

The latest IPO is yet more evidence that the HKEX is a hot location as a financing and exit route for biotechs and their venture capital backers, thanks to rules introduced earlier this year that allowed pre-revenue companies to list there for the first time.

WuXi AppTec is already a revenue generator and profitable, but it joins the likes of Ascletis, BeiGene, Hua Medicine, Zai Labs and Innovent among the wave of Chinese biotechs who have chosen Hong Kong for their listings this year, with some estimates suggesting dozens more are cueing up their own debuts.

Last year, WuXi group company WuXi Biologics – which focuses on drug development – raised $511 million on the HKEX and is also on an expansion push. Earlier this year it said it planned to invest $60 million in a manufacturing unit in Massachusetts.

A recent report from McKinsey suggests that within three years HKEX could become one of the preferred financing channels for biopharma companies, and some analysts suggest it could start to attract western as well as Asian companies.

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