European biotech firm BioNtech jumps 10% in U.S. market debut

Oct 10 - Shares of BioNTech SE jumped on their market debut on Thursday, after the German biotech firm downsized its initial public offering (IPO) and priced its stock below an earlier expected range.

The shares, whose launch was the latest test of fragile sentiment this year for primary stock market offerings, opened up 10% at $16.50 and rose as high as $16.69 in early trading on Nasdaq, giving the company a market valuation of $3.78 billion.

The company had originally aimed to sell 13.2 million American Depository Share (ADS) at between $18 and $20 apiece, but on Wednesday cut the deal size to 10 million ADS at $15 to $16 per share.

The final pricing of its public flotation at $15 per ADS helped BioNtech raise about $150 million less than a month after the dramatic collapse of another major IPO for WeWork owner The We Company.

The Mainz, Germany-based company specializes in messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules that prompt human cells to produce therapeutic proteins, triggering an immune response against cancer or infectious diseases.

Its closest rivals are Massachusetts-based Moderna and Belgium’s eTheRNA, which are currently locked in the race to develop mRNA therapies.

BioNtech said it expects to use proceeds from the public share sale for general corporate purposes and to acquire or invest in complementary technologies and products.

J.P. Morgan, BofA Securities and UBS were the lead underwriters of the IPO. ($1 = 0.9076 euros) (Reporting by C Nivedita in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)