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Chinese drugmaker Chipscreen's IPO on Star market sees feverish demand

Shares are almost 3,000 times oversubscribed among retail investors

Shanghai/Hong Kong

SHENZHEN Chipscreen Biosciences, which plans to list on China's red-hot new tech board, said that its newly issued shares were almost 3,000 times oversubscribed among retail investors, despite an eye-popping offer pricing of 468-times earnings.

While the scramble reflects a strong appetite for listings on Shanghai's Nasdaq-style Star Market, which was launched in June, it also underlines the challenge for bankers to value initial public offerings (IPOs) for tech startups as regulators let market prices play their role in setting prices.

Chipscreen, which develops original drugs for tumours and diabetes, said in an exchange filing on Thursday that shares reserved for individual investors - accounting for about one fifth of the IPO - were 2,956.25 times oversubscribed.

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The company set the price for its IPO at 20.43 yuan per share, or 467.51 times 2018 earnings, the highest so far for a Star Market company. In contrast, China-listed pharmaceutical firms, traded at an average earnings multiple of 30.79 over the past month.

The feverish demand values Chipscreen at 8.38 billion yuan (S$1.7 billion), and would allow the company to raise one billion yuan - 27 per cent more than originally planned.

In a roadshow on Tuesday, Chipscreen founder Lu Xianping said that the company will use the IPO proceeds to "strengthen competitiveness, expand market share and develop new products in a bid to make growth sustainable".

Chipscreen's share offering came a week after the frenzied debut of the first batch of 25 companies on the science and technology board on July 22. The companies surged roughly 140 per cent on average on that day.

Chipscreen has not disclosed when it will debut on the Star Market, which has attracted a slew of Chinese drugmakers to list. One drug developer, Suzhou Zelgen Biopharmaceuticals Co, plans to list before it sells any products to patients, potentially testing investors' risk tolerance.

The new tech board potentially competes with Hong Kong, which last year revised listing rules to allow so-called pre-revenue, or pre-profit biotech firms to go public in the city.

Under the new listing regime, 10 biotech firms have floated in Hong Kong as at May, raising over HK$33 billion (S$5.8 billion).

Shares of Ascletis Pharma, the first biotech firm to list in Hong Kong under the new rules, are trading about 66 per cent below is IPO price, while performances of the rest are mixed. REUTERS