Sugen takes second shot at UK flotation

Sugen, the biotechnology company 20 per cent owned by Zeneca, plans to float on the stock market this summer valued at around $150m (pounds 92m). This is the group's second shot at a UK listing.

The California-based Sugen, which already has a quote on the US's Nasdaq exchange, deferred plans to float last year following a slump in UK biotechnology prices. However, recently revived confidence in the sector could herald a stream of biotech flotations over the next two years.

One flotation in the pipeline is Biovector Therapeutics, the French drug delivery company. It said yesterday it hoped to raise around $50m in a flotation in the UK or on Europe's Easdaq market early next year, a move that would value the group at around $150m. Biovector, which this month announced a tie-up with US group Biochem Pharma to develop an influenza vaccine, has appointed Dresdner Kleinwort Benson as advisers.

Sugen, which specialises in developing cancer drugs, does not plan to raise new money when it launches in the UK. Speaking at a biotechnology conference hosted by Rothschild in London yesterday, Stephen Evans-Freke, Sugen's founder and chief executive, said: "Our share price in the US does not make fund-raising sensible at this point.

"We want to reach a broader audience of European investors. We know many who are keen to take a position, but they are restricted at the moment."

Mr Evans-Freke said Sugen now had a lower risk profile after successfully taking its most advanced drug for brain cancer into late-stage clinical trials. "The time is right for us in the UK," he said.

British-born Mr Evans-Freke, who owns 5 per cent of the company, moved to the US where he sold his first biotechnology start-up, Selectide, to the Marion Merrill Dow drug giant, now part of Hoechst, for $58m in 1994. He founded Sugen in 1990, floating it on Nasdaq four years later.

After Zeneca, which invested $33m for its 20 per cent share, Sugen's second-largest shareholder is Rothschild's venture capital arm, Biotechnology Investments, which owns 6 per cent. Jeremy Curnock Cook, a director of Biotechnology Investments, took a seat on Sugen's board in January.

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