Mainland China medical firms to check pulse of market appetite
Triplex IPO to gauge investor interest as nation overhauls ailing public health-care system
Ray Chan and George Chen
Two mainland medical firms are seeking to list on the Hong Kong stock market, as the nation embarks on a reform of its troubled public health-care system.
Triplex Biosciences, a Xiamen-based biotechnology and medical firm that makes products used to detect and diagnose certain cancers from blood and tissue samples, will market its share sale to raise about US$150 million this week, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The lead underwriters are China Merchants Securities and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Goldman Sachs is also advising.
Triplex, which runs a sales and distribution network through major public hospitals across the country, hoped to begin trading on the main board early next month, the sources said.
Beijing is keen to reform its health-care system, a major challenge to social stability on the mainland in the past decade. The reform offers huge potential for related business growth.
Little progress has been seen so far, partly because of a lack of private investment. However, newly elected President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have vowed to improve living conditions and standards including making it easier and more affordable to access medical care.
Triplex's share sale is important because its performance will be a gauge on whether the medical and health-care sector will be welcomed as a new investment theme on the Hong Kong market, where investors are turning away from the previously popular banking and property sectors.
Private equity firm RRJ Capital invested US$50 million in Triplex ahead of its flotation. RRJ was founded by Asian banker Richard Ong, a former Goldman Sachs partner and a co-founder of Hopu Investments, with Fang Fenglei, a well-known dealmaker.
"Richard's investment in Triplex means a vote of confidence. He has a good investment record and is well respected in the financial industry," said a source, referring to Ong, who is said to be well connected to the government.
Another health-care company lining up for a Hong Kong listing is Chongqing Medicines, a state-owned pharmaceutical firm which aims to raise about US$400 million, said sources familiar with the matter.
"If Triplex's offering can go ahead smoothly, that will boost market confidence in more, bigger follow-ups such as Chongqing Medicines," one source said.
"Investors are interested in the new health-care theme but health care is not like consumer products, for example, selling shoes or shampoo. Health-care business is more complicated for investors to understand," said the source.
Chongqing Medicines, established in the 1950s, aims to list in the third quarter of this year. Goldman Sachs is advising the firm, according to the sources.