(Reuters) – South Korean Samsung‘s (LON:BC94) Bioepis Co Ltd, a developer of generic versions of biotech drugs, said it was considering a Nasdaq IPO – a move that comes as it seeks about $1.3 billion for product development and as the Samsung Group makes a bigger push into biopharmaceuticals.
Highlighting growth opportunities for its biopharmaceuticals business may be a tactic by the Samsung Group to win support for a planned merger of two affiliates that would strengthen control for its founding Lee family, analysts said.
A proposed $8 billion takeover of construction firm Samsung C&T Corp by the conglomerate’s de facto holding company Cheil Industries Inc has drawn opposition from activist U.S. hedge fund Elliott.
If the takeover went ahead, the merged entity would have a majority stake in Samsung Biologics which owns 90 percent of Samsung Bioepis – resulting in a clearer line of control. Currently, Cheil owns 46 percent while Samsung Electronics Co Ltd also owns 46 percent and C&T owns 6 percent.
“This looks like an attempt by Samsung Group to back up its argument for the merger in regard to the growth opportunities for the biopharmaceuticals business,” said Chung Sun-sup, head of corporate analysis firm Chaebul.com.
Bioepis is looking to raise an estimated 1.5 trillion won ($1.3 billion) for future product development, and is considering fundraising options, including an IPO on Nasdaq or elsewhere, a company spokeswoman said.
U.S. listings are rare for South Korea firms. Korean-listed stocks tend to trade at discounts to global peers due to family-dominated ownership structures, opaque decision-making processes and low dividends. It would be the first on Nasdaq since 2006.
Samsung Group will soon send proposals to investment banks before choosing advisors for an IPO, which may take place in the first half of 2016, the Korea Economic Daily reported on Monday.
Bioepis is likely to have a market value of at least 8 trillion won ($7.1 billion), the newspaper said, citing an unidentified investment banking source.
Established in 2012, Bioepis booked an operating loss of 25 billion won last year. It aims to achieve revenue of 850 billion won in five years time.
The company is pursuing approvals to sell a biosimilar version of Amgen Inc’s rheumatism drug Enbrel as early as next year. It is working on copies of Johnson & Johnson ‘s Remicade, another rheumatism treatment, and Roche’s breast cancer treatment Herceptin. It has sales agreements with Merck & Co Inc and Biogen Inc.
There were 10 South Korean companies listed in the United States as of end-March, according South Korea’s Financial Supervisory Service.