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Hong Kong COVID testing firm Prenetics to go public via US$ 1.7 billion SPAC deal

HONG KONG :Hong Kong-based COVID-19 testing company Prenetics will go public via a merger agreement with Artisan Acquisition, in a deal that will value the pairing at US$1.7 billion.

The companies announced the deal on Thursday with the transaction valuing Prenetics at an enterprise value of US$1.25 billion with a combined equity value of around US$1.7 billion.

The biotech will be the "first unicorn from Hong Kong to be publicly listed in any market", the companies said in their statement, riding a boom in COVID-19 testing globally.

Artisan, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), is backed by Hong Kong property tycoon Adrian Cheng, chief executive of New World Development.

The deal highlights strong investor interest in Asian biotech startups with technology that has global applications amid the pandemic. Chinese biotech companies have been rushing to raise funds in the stock market as well, encouraged by the government's push to introduce more innovative treatments. https://www.reuters.com/world/china/chinas-biotech-sector-comes-age-with-big-licensing-deals-global-ambitions-2021-09-15

Asia was part of a global surge in SPAC-related deals at the start of 2021, but transactions have slowed with investors more prudent about which de-SPAC deals they want to support.

De-SPAC transactions - when SPACs merge with target firms - involving Asian companies have totalled US$55 billion this year, about a tenth of the global amount, Refinitiv data shows.

The combined market value of Chinese biotechs listed in Hong Kong, on Shanghai's STAR board and on the Nasdaq was some US$180 billion as of May, which compares to just US$1 billion in 2016, according to consulting firm McKinsey.

Prenetics will receive up to US$459 million in cash proceeds, including US$120 million raised from investors including Aspex, PAG, Xen Capital and conglomerate Lippo Group.

The combined company will be traded on the Nasdaq. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2021 or the first quarter of 2022, the companies said.

M&A AMBITIONS

Prenetics, founded in 2014, specializes in genomic and diagnostic testing and is the number one such company in Hong Kong and Britain, according to the statement.

Its clients include the Hong Kong government, Hong Kong International Airport, London Heathrow Airport, the English Premier League and Virgin Atlantic, the statement said.

Prenetics plans to expand its scope of products from its current concentration of COVID-19 testing to influenza and sexually transmitted diseases in the next few years, with COVID-related business to make up 20per cent of its revenue in 2023, its co-founder and CEO Danny Yeung told Reuters.

Prenetics is also looking to acquire companies that offer technology in the rapid diagnostic testing, genomics and laboratory areas over the next five years with a priority in the United States, Yeung said.

"We are entirely focused on international (market expansion). We have no aspirations to go into the mainland Chinese market," he said.

"We have limited resources and we want to be able to go into the markets where we can win."

As part of the SPAC deal, Prenetics' existing equity holders will roll their equity into the combined company.

Prenetics' expects its revenue to jump more than three-fold to US$205 million in 2021 from US$65 million in 2020, and to more than US$600 million in 2025.

UBS and Citigroup are financial advisers to Artisan and Prenetics, respectively.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru and Kane Wu and Farah Master in Hong Kong; Editing by Stephen Coates and Himani Sarkar)

Source: Reuters

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