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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Healthcare companies are lining up to go public, and they could get a warmer reception in 2010 as investors' risk appetite increases, and new legislation potentially leads to more profit for the sector.
The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved President Barack Obama's healthcare reform bill. It must negotiate with the House of Representatives over a final version, but if the bill passes, it would provide additional money to healthcare companies.
New legislation won't immediately translate into more healthcare IPOs, experts cautioned, but added it would generally boost the sector, and the pipeline looks healthy.
"It will be 3 to 5 years before you start seeing significant uptick in the number of companies that are coming to the public market due to the Obama healthcare plan," said Benjamin Howe, Chief Executive at investment bank America's Growth Capital.
Still, a recovering economy and hopes of money in a few years could be helping companies go public now.
Global heads of equity capital markets from Bank of America Merrill Lynch and UBS earlier this month identified healthcare as one of the sectors that they expect to produce more IPOs in 2010.
"People are more comfortable with risk if they see growth or the potential for growth," said Nick Einhorn, a research analyst with Connecticut-based Renaissance Capital.
That greater appetite for risk taking could spur investors to buy shares in newer healthcare companies, whose products may be further away from receiving regulatory approval and with less of a track record in making money, Einhorn said.
Healthcare spending currently accounts for about 11.5 percent of the U.S. economic activity, as measured by personal health care expenditure figures in the most recent gross domestic product report.
That percentage is expected to grow if the government succeeds in shaking up the industry by extending coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans, stopping companies from refusing insurance to people with pre-existing conditions, and providing some government subsidies to pay for all of it.
Einhorn cautioned, however, that there was no guarantee portfolio managers would want to take much more risk next year, and healthcare was among the riskier sectors for IPO investors.
Healthcare companies such as central nervous system anti-inflammation drug maker Omeros Corp (OMER.O) and Chinese radiotherapy and medical imaging company, Concord Medical Services Holding Ltd (CCM.N), both lost roughly 13 percent of their value in first day trades earlier this year, and have traded down since.
But some healthcare IPOs performed well this year. Protein therapy company Talecris Biotherapeutics Holdings Corp TLCR.O had the most successful healthcare IPO of 2009, raising $950 million and rising 11.3 percent in its first day of trading.
The company had initially planned to go public, but canceled those plans when Australian blood products group CSL Ltd (CSL.AX) offered to buy it for $3.1 billion. It turned back to public equity when U.S. antitrust regulators blocked the deal.
Reporting by Clare Baldwin; Editing by Valerie Lee