BioNTech IPO filing says trade war, Hong Kong unrest may be delaying $100M of series B

As BioNTech's pipeline now extends beyond mRNA, the Strüngmann family office may finally gain liquidity

BioNTech’s IPO filing revealed that it has not yet received $100 million from a Hong Kong-based investor who was part of its recent $325 million series B round, likely because of “disruptions” in Hong Kong and deteriorating U.S.-China trade relations.

The filing says that based on its conversations with the undisclosed investor, BioNTech SE (Mainz, Germany) “believes the payment may have been delayed in part due to ongoing geopolitical disruptions in Hong Kong and the ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. and China,” and that while the investor “has stated its continued commitment to delivering the full investment amount, the payment may be indefinitely delayed, or potentially not received at all.”

Well-funded BioNTech has already received the series B round’s remaining $225 million, one of at least four nine-digit sums it has received in its 11-year history. Counting both equity funding and non-dilutive cash from deals, BioNTech has raised $1.3 billion to fund development of a pipeline that originally consisted of mRNA-based therapeutics, but now also spans CAR Ts and other cell therapies, bispecific antibodies and small molecule immunomodulators.

Tapping the public markets via a NASDAQ listing would deliver a fifth large installment. BioNTech’s prospectus, filed late Monday, says it is aiming to raise up to $100 million, although it may set a different target when it proposes a number of shares and price range in the coming weeks.

A listing would finally bring liquidity for the Strüngmann family, BioNTech’s founding investors. The family office and MIG Fonds seeded BioNTech with €150 million. The company drew about $270 million in its 2018 series A round, which included Redmile Group, Janus Henderson, Invus and Fidelity.

Among the investors named in BioNTech's series B press release, only one -- Jebsen Capital -- identifies itself on its website as being headquartered in Hong Kong. Jebsen told BioCentury early Wednesday it has completed its series B investment in BioNTech.

Two more firms named in the July release have close ties to Asia. At the time, BioNTech declined to divulge the headquarters of Steam Athena Capital, but said that firm is “managed by seasoned VC/PE investors in Europe and Asia.” Another series B investor, BVCF Management, is headquartered in Shanghai.

Neither Jebsen’s, BVCF’s, nor Steam Athena’s name is in the prospectus. BioNTech declined to comment, citing a quiet period. Little information about Steam Athena is available online.

The delayed funds also could be related to China capital control restrictions as Beijing has been concerned about capital flight in recent years.

The series B round was designed to include investors spanning Europe, the U.S. and Asia. Along with several returning backers from the prior round, the series B also included Korea-based Mirae Asset Financial Group and Australian firm Platinum Asset Management (see “BioNTech Broadens Investor Base”).

On top of the equity investments, BioNTech has received non-dilutive funding from seven deals with biopharmas. The largest was the German biotech’s 2016 agreement with Genentech Inc. to develop personalized, mRNA-based neoantigen vaccines, which yielded $310 million in an upfront payment and near-term milestones. BioNTech shares its most advanced program, RO7198457, with Genentech under that deal; it is in a Phase II trial in combination with Keytruda pembrolizumab to treat melanoma in a first-line setting.

Its other deals include arrangements with Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE), Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE:LLY), Genmab A/S (CSE:GEN; NASDAQ:GMAB), Sanofi (Euronext:SAN; NASDAQ:SNY), Bayer AG (Xetra:BAYN) and Genevant Sciences GmbH (Basel, Switzerland).

The Strüngmanns own just over half of BioNTech’s shares. An entity associated with co-founder and CEO Ugur Sahin holds almost 19%, while MIG Fonds has about 6%.

Underwriters are J.P. Morgan, BofA Merrill Lynch, UBS, SVB Leerink, Canaccord Genuity, Bryan Garnier, Berenberg, Wolfe Capital Markets, Kempen and Mirae Asset Securities.

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