Europe launches first SPAC focused on production of complex drugs

(Reuters) – Europe’s first “blank cheque” company focused on acquiring companies that make medicines for the biotech and pharmaceutical industry launched on Monday, with plans to raise 150 million euros.

The company, named eureKING, intends to list on Euronext Paris and has identified about 40 targets that manufacture biologics, cell and gene therapies, or live biotherapeutics (biological products that contains live organisms, such as bacteria to prevent, treat or cure disease).

As a SPAC, eureKING is a publicly listed shell company that raises funds to merge with a private company, taking it public without the scrutiny that comes with a traditional IPO.

Its targets are contract development and manufacturing organisations (CDMOs), which provide services to companies without the resources to do such work in-house.

The top CDMO players, including Lonza (LONN.S), Boehringer Ingelheim, WuXi Biologics (2269.HK), Catalent (CTLT.N) and Samsung Biologics (207940.KS), hold just over a quarter of the market. The rest is shared by more than a thousand companies, according to eureKING.

EureKING CEO Michael Kloss, former head of Bayer’s diabetes business, said the company planned to swallow about three CDMOs that each make about 50 million euros in annual revenue in Europe over the next few years.

The assumption, depending on the size of the targets, is to create a group that will reach an enterprise level of about a billion euros, he said.

Eventually, the company hopes to build a one-stop boutique manufacturing network for European biotechs that don’t need large batches of product and aren’t necessarily prioritised by the big CDMOs.

There are is a global need to scale up manufacturing to meet the burgeoning demand for advanced therapeutics, said Claire Skentelbery, director general of the European biotech industry group EuropaBio.

Europe is not in the game on its own — the United States, India and now China have strong, growing manufacturing bases, she said. “In Europe, we need to make sure that we are shoulder to shoulder with the other major regions.”

Reporting by Natalie Grover. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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