NEW YORK, Dec 15 - Amersham Pharmacia Biotech denied on Friday reports that
it postponed its initial public offering due to delays in launching its SNP
analysis and protein mapping systems, saying that the company was waiting
until parent company Nycomed Amersham emerged from a quiet period at the end
" We always said we anticipated or hoped to do [the IPO] by end of 2000, but
this was subject to SEC proceedings, and it takes a while to do these
things," said Tracy Cheung, vice president of investor relations at AP
Nycomed Amersham, which owns 55 percent of AP Biotech, originally announced
on August 7 that it would offer 10 percent of APBiotech on the Nasdaq by
the end of 2000. It filed an S-1 Statement with the US Securities and Exchange Committee on October 3, and said it planned to raise a maximum of $100 million through the IPO.
On Friday, the Financial Times reported that the IPO had been delayed due to
delays in SNP analysis and protein mapping systems product launches. The
company reported these delays, as well as the later-than-expected IPO date,
in a statement released to investors.
" In AP Biotech, drug discovery turnover growth has been good," the
statement said. " But [it was] held back in the second half by delays in
launching our proteomics and SNP analysis platforms. Several proteomics
systems have now been launched under the Ettan brand and our SNiPer
platform for SNP analysis is in several customer trial sites."
But Cheung said that these product launch delays did not impact the IPO.
Instead, she explained the company decided to wait because it would be hard
to run a road show and answer questions from potential investors so long as
Nycomed Amersham was still in its quiet period. Nycomed, an Anglo-Norwegian
company based in London, ends its fiscal year on December 31, and under British
securities law, a company enters a quiet period from the end of the fiscal
year to the time of results are reported.
Given that it did not launch the IPO by the end of December, this quiet period effectively postpones the IPO until at least the end of February.
Winton Gibbons, an analyst at William Blair in Chicago, agreed with this
analysis. APBiotech's IPO delay was " driven completely by the capital
market," not by any product launch delays, he said.
In fact, Gibbons thinks the launch delays in the Sniper system will not make
much of a difference in the overall SNP analysis market, given that so many
new technologies are flooding into the market.
" I think it’s going to take many quarters for the SNP landscape to resolve itself. Under that scenario, the fact that they have had a delay with new technology is not unexpected," Gibbons said.
The company's statement also said that AP Biotech had incurred increased expenses in the second half of 2000 stemming from the launch of the SNP analysis and proteomics platforms. Increased litigation costs related to its lawsuit against Applied Biosystems and Celera and higher R &D costs also boosted expenditures, the statement said.
According to the statement APBiotech has just $27.5 million in cash assets as well as along with $418 million in short-term debt and $13.6 million in long-term debt.
But Gibbons said he did not think the company is in dire straits or that a
further postponement of the IPO could lead to serious trouble.
" APBiotech is a joint venture between Nycomed Amersham and Pharmacia Upjohn," he said. " Capital is not the same issue as if it were a stand-alone company. There is
no reason to believe APBiotech is somehow going to run out of money."
For this reason, Gibbons said, Nycomed Amersham might also be more
conservative than stand-alone companies in deciding when market conditions
are safe for an IPO.
Instead of being driven by an absolute need to raise funds or a need to pay back creditors and investors, the parent company is more likely to wait until it can get the price it wants for the shares, Gibbons said.