Chinese drugmaker Chipscreen's STAR Market IPO sees feverish demand

SHANGHAI/HONG KONG (Reuters) - Shenzhen Chipscreen Biosciences, which plans to list on China’s red-hot new tech board, said its newly issued shares were almost 3,000-times oversubscribed among retail investors, despite an eye-popping offer pricing of 468-times earnings.

While the scramble reflects a strong appetite for listings on Shanghai’s Nasdaq-style STAR Market, which was launched in June, it also underlines the challenge for bankers to value IPOs for tech start-ups as regulators let market prices play their role in setting prices.

Chipscreen 688321.SS, which develops original drugs for tumors and diabetes, said in an exchange filing on Thursday that shares reserved for individual investors - accounting for about one fifth of the IPO - were 2,956.25 times oversubscribed.

The company has set the price for its initial public offering (IPO) at 20.43 yuan per share, or 467.51 times 2018 earnings, the highest so far for a STAR Market company.

In contrast, China-listed pharmaceutical firms, traded at an average earnings multiple of 30.79 over the past month.

The feverish demand values Chipscreen at 8.38 billion yuan ($1.21 billion), and would allow the company to raise 1 billion yuan - 27% more than originally planned.

In a roadshow on Tuesday, Chipscreen founder Lu Xianping said the company will use the IPO proceeds to “strengthen competitiveness, expand market share, and develop new products in a bid to make growth sustainable”.

Chipscreen’s share offering came a week after the frenzied debut of the first batch of 25 companies on the science and technology board on July 22. The companies surged roughly 140% on average on that day.

Chipscreen has not disclosed when it will debut on the STAR Market, which has attracted a slew of Chinese drugmakers to list. One drug developer, Suzhou Zelgen Biopharmaceuticals Co, plans to list before it sells any products to patients, potentially testing investors’ risk tolerance.

The new tech board potentially competes with Hong Kong, which last year revised listing rules to allow so-called pre-revenue, or pre-profit biotech firms to go public in the city.

Under the new listing regime, 10 biotech firms have floated in Hong Kong as of May, raising over HK$33 billion ($4 billion).

Shares of Ascletis Pharma 1672.HK, the first biotech firm to list in Hong Kong under the new rules, are trading about 66% below is IPO price, while performances of the rest are mixed.

($1 = 6.9004 Chinese yuan)

($1 = 7.8271 Hong Kong dollars)

Reporting by Samuel Shen and Julie Zhu; Editing by Himani Sarkar