SoftBank-backed Vir Biotechnology raises $143 million in U.S. IPO

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Vir Biotechnology VIR.O priced its initial public offering (IPO) at $20 a share on Thursday, at the bottom end of expectations, the latest underwhelming investment performance for a stock held by SoftBank Group Corp's 9984.T Vision Fund.

The San Francisco-based infectious disease researcher raised $142.9 million, having previously set a price range of $20-$22 per share. The IPO valued Vir, 21% owned by the Vision Fund, at $2.2 billion.

Vir is researching new therapies for infectuous diseases such as hepatitis, tuberculosis and HIV, and counts some of the most high-profile investors in the industry among its backers.

Co-founded by Arch Venture Partners' Robert Nelsen, both SoftBank's Vision Fund and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are investors in the company. Biogen Inc's BIIB.O former chief executive officer George Scangos is its CEO.

Vir's IPO compounds SoftBank's high-profile setbacks of late on big bets such as Uber Technologies UBER.N and WeWork. Uber is now worth around 35% less than its IPO price in May, while WeWork cancelled its planned IPO last week.

SoftBank has had better success in the biotechnology sector, backing the successful IPOs of life science technology company 10x Genomics and precision oncology firm Guardant Health.

Vir’s IPO comes amid a bout of stock market volatility fueled by worries over the potential economic impact of a trade war between the United States and China. Those concerns have led other IPO hopefuls to delay their listings or have seen the shares of those recently listed flounder after their debut.

Earlier this week, biotech firm BioNTech SE BNTX.O sold fewer shares and at a lower price than originally planned in its IPO.

Vir is due to start trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange on Friday under the symbol “VIR.”

Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Cowen and Barclays are the lead underwriters on the IPO.

Reporting by Joshua Franklin and Rebecca Spalding in New York; Editing by Richard Pullin