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Oxford Nanopore surges 45% in rare London biotech listing

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A COVID-19 self-test kit is used by a teacher in Milton Keynes

By Yadarisa Shabong

(Reuters) -Oxford Nanopore Technologies soared 45% in its market debut on Thursday, marking London's biggest biotech listing in recent years and valuing the firm at almost 5 billion pounds ($6.84 billion).

The company specialises in DNA sequencing and provides rapid COVID-19 tests.

The London Stock Exchange (LSE) has enjoyed a strong run of IPOs this year yet biotech firms have traditionally opted to list in New York over London, or have listed on the LSE's junior AIM bourse rather than the main market.

"We went through a thorough and rigorous process and went for London," CEO Gordon Sanghera told journalists this month. "For many, many reasons is the right place to float, and some of the government moves are encouraging."

Oxford Nanopore is the LSE's first major biotech listing since 2014 when allergy specialist Circassia went public and fetched a valuation of 581 million pounds, according to Reuters Breakingviews.

"This will be seen as a vote of confidence for the London Stock Exchange as a worthy launch pad for both tech and pharmaceutical companies, particularly given the NASDAQ's dominance in this space," Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Susannah Streeter said in an email.

The company reached a value of about 4.95 billion pounds at the session's high after opening 28% above their initial public offering (IPO) price of 425 pence.

Oxford Nanopore, whose stated vision is to enable the "analysis of any living thing, by anyone, anywhere," sells a range of devices for DNA and RNA sequencing - an essential tool in medicine, biology and forensics.

More recently, the company has sold technology for genome sequencing of the novel coronavirus that helps identify variants, besides providing rapid COVID-19 tests to Britain's national health services.

"The company has really hit a sweet spot since it makes devices to sequence COVID variants, and it's in a sector that will only become more important, attract more attention and more investment over the coming years," Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson said.

Oxford Nanopore sold 524 million pounds worth of shares in the IPO. It had set its issue price towards the upper end of an earlier range.

It issued 82.4 million new shares, raising 350 million pounds, while existing shareholders sold 41 million shares, it said in a statement.

($1 = 0.7311 pounds)

(Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong and Aditi Sebastian in Bengaluru, Abhinav Ramnarayan in London; editing by Sachin Ravikumar and Jason Neely)

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