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Two biotechnology companies end US IPO lull

[NEW YORK] Biotechnology companies BeiGene Ltd and Editas Medicine Inc priced the first initial public offerings of 2016 in the United States on Tuesday, following a bout of stock market volatility that shut the IPO market for over a month.

In the absence of any new stock market jitters, the pricing of the two offerings could embolden other companies to proceed with their IPOs. Some are in need to raise cash after the freeze in the IPO market weighed on their ability to fund their growth.

Many IPO investors got burnt in 2015 after the stock market rout decimated their gains. Investors who bought shares in IPOs since the start of 2015, and held on to them, are now staring at a negative 18.5 per cent return, according to investment advisory firm Rennaissance Capital.

BeiGene, a Beijing-based company which develops molecules and monoclonal antibodies to treat cancer, priced 6.6 million shares at US$24, the top of its previous US$22 to US$24 range, raising US$158.4 million. This was upsized, due to strong investor demand, from an original offering of 5.5 million shares.

Editas, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company that aims to treat diseases through gene editing, priced 5.9 million shares at US$16, the bottom of its previously indicated range of US$16 to US$18, raising US$94.4 million.

Both IPO's had support from some of these companies'existing shareholders that committed to snap up shares in the offerings. Two of BeiGene's investors, hedge funds Baker Brothers Inc and Hillhouse Capital Group, had indicated their intention to buy half the company's offering.

Also helping Editas is its connection to big-name investors. Boris Nikolic, who previously served as chief adviser for science and technology to Microsoft Corp founder Bill Gates, sits on the board of Editas. "(For companies to succeed with their IPOs, they need to be) a solid business, that aren't going to be impacted so much by this global slowdown that people fear," Kathleen Smith, Renaissance Capital principal, said in an interview.

Two bigger IPOs are scheduled to price next week. Waste collection company ADS Waste Holdings Inc is looking to raise up to US$471 million, while airport restaurant concessionaire OTG Experience Inc is hoping to raise as much as US$585 million.