Moderna, largest biotech to go public, fails to impress in market debut

Dec 7 (Reuters) - Moderna Inc's shares fell as much as 6 percent in an upsized market debut on Friday, taking a hit from a broader selloff in the U.S. markets spurred by investors fretting over an economic slowdown.

The company's shares opened at $22, 4.3 percent below their initial public offering price of $23 per share.

At that opening price, Moderna was valued at $7.32 billion, based on 332.9 million outstanding shares including over-allotment, making it the biggest biotech company to go public.

Moderna, which had originally planned to sell 21.7 million shares for between $22 and $24 per share, raised its offering by 21 percent to roughly 26.3 million shares at $23 per share on Thursday.

The IPO raised $604.3 million and eclipsed the $373 million raised by Allogene Therapeutics in October, which is the largest biotech since Axovant Sciences' $363 million IPO in 2015. These trail only Genentech's blockbuster $1.9 billion IPO back in 1999.

Founded in 2010, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company develops drugs based on molecules known as messenger RNAs (mRNA), which carries the recipe for making proteins inside the body.

Scientists have been touting using mRNA as medicine to tackle many hard-to-treat diseases, from cancer to infections to heart and kidney disorders.

No mRNA medicines have ever been approved to date by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or other regulatory agency, marking the regulatory path uncertain, the company said. However, in September last year, its heart drug to treat coronary artery disease, developed along with AstraZeneca , met the main goal in an early-stage trial.

The IPO marks the third most highly valued venture capital exit in 2018, behind music streaming company Spotify Technology S.A. and data sharing and storage firm Dropbox Inc , according to IPO expert Renaissance Capital.

Overall for the year, biotech IPOs have performed strongly, returning on average around 14 percent in 2018 as of Nov. 30, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers data, compared to a broadly flat S&P 500 Index year to date.

Moderna has raised over $2.6 billion in total funding from collaborators and investors including drugmaker Merck & Co Inc and British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc.

The company has also won grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

It currently has 21 programs in development and is yet to bring a product to the market. 10 of those are in clinical trial stages including a vaccine for the Zika virus and a drug to treat cancer.

The company's total revenue fell 12.5 percent to $99.6 million in the first nine months of this year. Net loss attributable to common shareholders widened to $257.8 million in the same period, from $228.4 million a year earlier.

Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and J.P. Morgan Securities LLC are among the lead underwriting banks for Moderna's IPO. (Reporting by Bharath Manjesh and Mary Ann Alapatt in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Sweta Singh)

12/07/2018 12:08

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