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SK Bioscience seeks up to W1.5tr in blockbuster IPO

SK Bioscience CEO Ahn Jae-yong speaks at an online briefing with reporters held Tuesday. (SK Bioscience)
SK Bioscience CEO Ahn Jae-yong speaks at an online briefing with reporters held Tuesday. (SK Bioscience)
SK Bioscience, the vaccines unit of South Korea’s No. 3 conglomerate SK Group, said Tuesday it looks to raise up to some 1.49 trillion won ($1.34 billion) in fresh funds via an initial public offering on the nation’s benchmark Kospi bourse.

While its market debut is scheduled for next month, the vaccine producer seeks to issue 22.95 million shares in a price band of 49,000-65,000 won. The exact share price will be determined after the book building process before retail investors can apply on March 9-10, with NH Investment & Securities as the lead underwriter and Korea Investment & Securities and Mirae Asset Daewoo as members of the underwriter group.

If the fundraising is successful, SK Bioscience will mark the nation’s sixth-largest offering on the main bourse. The five biggest IPO deals so far are Samsung Life Insurance (4.89 trillion won), Netmarble (2.66 trillion won), Samsung Biologics (2.25 trillion won), Hanwha Life Insurance (1.78 trillion won) and Samsung C&T (1.52 trillion won).

The IPO proceeds will help the company reinforce its global business by expanding labs and facilities for the contract manufacturing of biologics materials, developing new pipelines, forging partnerships with global authorities and institutions and enlarging vaccine portfolios, according to its prospectus for the listing.

SK Bioscience CEO Ahn Jae-yong told reporters in an online briefing that the firm will not only take a leap forward as a global vaccine developer, but it also vows to enhance shareholder value. He highlighted “transparency and trust” as the two key factors when running a bio business.

SK Bioscience, a spinoff from SK Chemical in July 2018, specializes in the research and development of treatments for central nervous system disorders. It is pursuing COVID-19 vaccines research under a state-run project.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided funding of $3.6 million for SK Bioscience’s efforts to develop an optimal antigen for the coronavirus. The vaccine developer has signed contracts with AstraZeneca and Novavax to cooperate in production of their COVID-19 vaccines in Korea.

The company is also tackling COVID-19 by developing its own NBP2001 and GBP510 vaccine candidates, which are currently in phase 1 and phase 1/2 clinical trials, respectively. The vaccines could be issued in the first half of next year, with the final stage of clinical trials expected to be conducted in the third quarter of this year, the CEO explained.

“Some might say it has been too late to develop COVID-19 vaccines. But we believe that demand for the vaccines will continue, considering factors such as the duration of antibody responses,” the CEO said, adding its self-developed vaccines will play a constructive role as the “game closer” to end the pandemic.

SK Bioscience’s IPO announcement came just a month after fellow SK Group drugmaker SK Biopharmaceuticals’ record-breaking stock market entry in July last year, with deposit payments amounting to 30.98 trillion won.

Fueled by market watchers’ evaluation that the company is valued at around 5 trillion won, investors are enthusiastic about the upcoming IPO for SK Bioscience. Some experts have forecast that investors are likely to flock to the firm’s retail tranche and that the firm may set a fresh record in the local IPO market.

By Jie Ye-eun (