French biotech AB Science preparing Paris IPO-sources

* 50 mln euro IPO seen beginning of March

* Could be Paris’s first biotech listing since June 2008

* Societe Generale lead manager, Fortis co-manager

* Analyst meeting due next week

By Noelle Mennella and Caroline Jacobs

PARIS, Feb 3 (Reuters) - AB Science is preparing for a 50 million euro ($70 million) initial public offering next month in a move that could make it France’s first biotech stock exchange listing since mid-2008.

Three industry and financial sources said Societe Generale SOGN.PA will be the IPO's lead manager and Fortis FOR.BR the co-manager and that an analyst meeting will be held next week.

The Paris-based company’s attempt to raise cash will come at a time that credit-crisis hit economies are slowly getting out of the doldrums and investors are gradually showing renewed interest in taking a bet. [ID:nLDE6031JC] [ID:nLDE60P1R4]

AB Science addresses human and animal health. It is selling one veterinary cancer treatment, generically known as masitinib, in Europe while awaiting its U.S. clearance and is running several final clinical tests using the same compound on humans.

Revenues from its animal health drug and its relatively advanced pipeline of drugs for humans, which also contains several mid-stage trial compounds, should give investors some clarity as to where they are about to put their money in.

“There will be a placement of 25 million euros from shares owned by historical investors and a capital increase of 25 million euros. In all, 50 million euros will be placed on the market,” one financial source said.

"It (the IPO) will happen in March, rather at the beginning of the month, it depends on market conditions," the source said, adding shareholders include the Mulliez family, owners of retailer Auchan, Casino CASP.PA executive chairman Jean-Charles Naoury and Oddo Securities head Philippe Oddo.

AB Science’s founder Alain Moussy did not reply to an email and the company did not return telephone calls.


Moussy used to be head of mergers and acquisitions at the world's second-largest retailer Carrefour CARR.PA but personal reasons pushed him to set up a foundation, Afirmm, in 1999 to address mastocytosis, a rare disorder caused by too many mast cells which are part of the immune system.

Two years later, after encounters with scientists, specialists and pharmaceutical companies, he created AB Science.

Paris-based AB Science develops drugs that block tyrosine kinases (TK) -- proteins that act as chemical messengers to cells, signalling them to grow -- to target cancer, inflammatory and central nervous system diseases.

Its mast cell tumour treatment in dogs, branded Masivet in Europe, became the world's first approved chemotherapy for animals in 2008. If approved in the United States, the drug will be named Kinavet and compete with Pfizer's PFE.N Palladia.

As a potential drug for humans, the masitinib compound is in end stage or Phase III clinical tests in three cancer types -- gastrointestinal stomal tumor, pancreatic cancer where it is added to Eli Lilly's LLY.N Gemzar chemotherapy, and mastocytosis. Plans exist for Phase III studies on other cancers and inflammatory diseases.

Available TK blockers include Novartis' NOVN.VX Gleevec, OSI Pharmaceuticals OSIP.O Tarceva and AstraZeneca's AZN.L Iressa.

There are no financial details available on the AB Science website. So far it has financed its drug developments through capital increases of about 40 million euros, one source said.