Israeli biotechs wait in the wings for opening of IPO window


A trio of Israeli biotechs are on the cusp of publicly filing to list on Nasdaq. The unnamed biotechs have reportedly completed the initial filings for public offerings expected to raise up to $130 million (€116 million) each--but are holding off on going live until demand picks up.

Nelson Griggs, EVP of listings services at Nasdaq, disclosed details of the small backlog of Israeli IPO hopefuls in an interview with Bloomberg. The three biotechs, which are joined on the waiting list by an Israeli tech company, have market values of $500 million to $750 million and aspirations to raise $75 million to $130 million. Through 2014 and 2015, Nasdaq racked up biotech IPOs of similar sizes at a breakneck speed, but the torrent has slowed to a trickle over the past 6 months.

“This was our worst start of the year since the crisis in 2009,” Griggs said. "It’s not just tech or biotech that has been slow, it’s the whole market. We are preparing for what could be a slow 2016 but there are tons of companies wanting to go. It’s not the companies side, it’s the demand side.”

The identities of the three biotechs that have completed initial filings are not known publicly, but there are a clutch of companies that could be on the list. Bloomberg lists PolyPid--which tried without success to IPO in 2014 and 2015--and UroGen Pharma as Israeli biotechs that have been linked with listings on Nasdaq this year. Dr. Arie Belldegrun, the CEO and founder of Kite Pharma ($KITE), is chairman of UroGen, an Israeli biotech that is developing treatments for nonmuscle-invasive bladder cancer. Which, if any, of these companies will be the next to try to IPO is unclear.

Kitov Pharma ($KTOV), which priced its IPO on November 20, was the last Israeli biopharma to list on Nasdaq. The 6 months since that listing is the longest Nasdaq has gone without adding an Israeli biotech to its exchange since 2013-2014. That earlier gap covered the 10 months following the back-to-back IPOs of Alcobra ($ADHD) and Kamada ($KMDA), listings that signaled the willingness of Nasdaq investors to back Israeli biotechs, albeit at knockdown share prices. By the time Galmed Pharmaceuticals ($GLMD) priced its IPO in March 2014, Israeli biotechs were lining up to list on Nasdaq.

That period of quickfire IPOs ended in November with Kitov. Since then, Mapi Pharma has once again failed to get an IPO off the ground and the as-yet-unidentified trio discussed by Griggs have set themselves up to go public if the market improves.

- read Bloomberg’s article