Biotech firm plans virtual investor deals for HK IPO

The coronavirus outbreak has led to a slump in deals as scores of flights have been cancelled. (AP pic)

HONG KONG: A Chinese biotech firm that cancelled investor meetings for its Hong Kong initial public offering earlier this month due to the novel coronavirus outbreak is planning to hold them as soon as next week, but likely virtually.

In a sign of the disruptive impact of the epidemic – which has killed more than 2,600 people and infected 80,000 globally – is having on in-person deal making, InnoCare Pharma Ltd is considering holding most of the meetings with prospective investors via video or phone calls, according to people familiar with the matter.

Innocare aims to raise about US$200 million to US$300 million in the first-time share sale, which could be the largest deal in Hong Kong to go ahead with formal pre-marketing since the Lunar New Year break, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the discussions are private.

The coronavirus outbreak has led to a slump in deals as scores of flights have been cancelled into and out of China, hampering company executives’ and bankers’ travel, while many employees in the region have been forced to work from home in an effort to avoid contagion.

Meetings with investors to gauge demand for an IPO are usually held in person, but the novel coronavirus has made that all but impossible for many Chinese companies as investors are either unwilling to meet with management face-to-face or executives simply can’t travel because of the quarantine restrictions.

Just two IPOs have priced in Hong Kong since mid-January, raising a total of US$32 million, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The virus has been hitting activity in what was the world’s top listing venue last year with more than US$40 billion raised. A global stock rout on Monday caused by fears over a surge in cases outside China is likely to add to the negative backdrop.