Biotechs lining up to list

Four companies are poised to float on the Australian Stock Exchange in December and January, with at least another two companies waiting in the wings.

Narhex Life Sciences, Mesoblast and Dia-B Tech are all scheduled to float in the weeks before Christmas, while NZ company Neuren is planning its float on January 11, 2005.

HIV therapeutics company Narhex, originally scheduled to float on December 10, has pushed back its float date in order to chase after tardy applications and oversubscriptions, according to non-executive director Ron Hodge. "We definitely still want to list before Christmas, so we're trying to balance the close with that," he said.

Hodge said that, with oversubscriptions, the company is likely to exceed its minimum target of $8 million in the IPO, which has not been underwritten. "It's all looking exceptionally good -- we've had great feedback," he said.

Dia-B Tech, a spin-off from Cardia Technologies (ASX:CNN) targeting diabetes through a number of innovative approaches, is also aiming at a December float, with a projected December 13 close to its AUD$6 million IPO and float on December 20. Company secretary Ken Smith said the company was hoping to meet those deadlines, but warned there could be delays.

Meanwhile, Mesoblast, the adult stem cell company founded by Prof Silviu Itescu, who holds positions at Columbia University and Melbourne University, has had to file a supplementary prospectus with ASIC for its IPO, to clarify some issues raised by the regulator, and is likely to have to extend its offer accordingly. The float is underwritten by Lodge Partners, whose previous biotech floats for Cellestis and Medical Developments International have been very successful.

Mesoblast is hoping to raise $21 million, of which $10 million will be used to acquire a 33.33 per cent share in Itescu's US-based company Angioblast, which is developing cardiovascular applications for mesenchymal stem cells. The remaining funds will be used to develop orthopaedic applications for the stem cells.

New Zealand company Neuren Pharmaceuticals is expecting to raise $15 million in its IPO, to support Phase II clinical trials of its neuroprotective drug Glypromate. The offer, underwritten by EG Capital, is scheduled to close on December 17, and the company will float on or around January 11, 2005.

The company has a priority register for shareholders of Metabolic Pharmaceuticals, Neuren's partner in an obesity program, which closes on December 10. The company has seen strong interest in its float and expects to reach its target.

Waiting in the wings are Perth-based functional proteomics company Phylogica and US company Heartware, who are both expected to float sometime early in the New Year.

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