Belgium remains a frontrunner in the European biotech landscape, with only Germany and Denmark ahead. The tide is turning, but with a decrease in total stock market capitalization of 2 percent to 42 billion euros for all public biotech companies, the European biotech is less impacted than in the US or Asia. KBC Securities will present an overview of the capital markets in biotech and more insights today at the State of the Union of the Flemish life sciences sector federation flanders.bio and VIB.
The Belgian life sciences sector, better known as the biotech sector, is holding up despite a difficult market environment. With a total market value of 42.1 billion euros (end March 2022), Belgian biotech companies maintain the third position in Europe.
Thanks to the excellent stock market performances of argenx and UCB in the past year, Belgium has even managed to narrow the gap with Germany, the number one in Europe. The biotech companies in Germany, Denmark and Belgium each reached a market value of just over 40 billion euros, and together accumulated almost 130 billion euros in market cap.
argenx and UCB were outstanding. Both companies had large increases in stock market values, of 2.7 and 5.3 billion euros respectively. argenx successfully completed a capital increase, for the third year in a row, and raised 732 million euros in March 2022. argenx also announced promising sales results for VYVGart, the drug for the treatment of myasthenia gravis, a rare disease. UCB had great expectations for the regulatory approval of Bimzelx, a psoriasis drug, but unfortunately disappointing news last Friday wiped out 75 percent of profits in market cap.
1 billion euro league
The smaller public biotech companies, with a market cap of less than 1 billion euros, posted a combined market value of 2.7 billion euros, which lifts Belgium from the 7th to the 4th place in the European ranking. An important footnote here is that this progress has been boosted by the arrival of Mithra and iTeos Therapeutics in this category, as both companies have fallen below the symbolic threshold of 1 billion euros market value.
Publicly traded companies in this category have been struggling, not only in Belgium, but also in our neighbouring countries and the US, as investors prefer to focus on companies with a proven track record: a late development stage or a large market capitalization, which gives them a higher liquidity. Companies in earlier stages, although publishing good results or making progress, are less attractive today.
“The market environment for life sciences has been very harsh over the past year. Investors preferred safer sectors, making it difficult to attract new capital. Recently we saw more activity again, but the situation remains precarious. We expect investors to remain selective in the public markets. This said, overall we remain optimistic, as the situation today is fundamentally different than in the aftermath of the financial crisis. There plenty of capital around in the private market today”, says Nathalie Van Den Haute, Head Equity Capital Markets of KBC Securities.
Start-ups remain attractive
Capital rounds of unlisted companies kept attracting foreign investors as well. 2021 was another record year for Belgium, with more than 1.3 billion euros in venture capital raised by technology players. Moreover, the funds became larger, with LSP VII for instance, raising no less than 1 billion euros
In addition, we see a wave of takeovers in European VC funds, as EQT acquired LSP (Life Science Partners) at the end of 2021 and Carlyle very recently announced the take-over of Abingworth. This trend could be the first step towards a bigger offer of growth finance in the European biotech sector.
Although it’s striking that investors are becoming picky, which makes it somewhat less obvious for life sciences companies to find funds.
“Our biotech hub has strong foundations, but we must not be blind to what is happening around us and to the challenges we encounter, such as digitization and the emergence of new therapeutic modalities. In that sense, I am very pleased to see how recent initiatives in Flanders, such as Medvia and Biotope, and the building of the CAR-T facility in Ghent, further strengthen the competitiveness of our ecosystem. The coming period will be challenging, but I am convinced that we will come out stronger somehow!”, believes Kenneth Wils, Head of Life Sciences & Care at PMV.
State of the Union from the Belgian biotech
Nathalie Van Den Haute of KBC Securities and Kenneth Wils of PMV will both share their insights during the State of the Union event, organised by flanders.bio and VIB, the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology, this evening. Further market developments and initiatives in the biotech sector will also be discussed, by Dirk Reyn, chairman of flanders.bio, and Jérôme Van Biervliet, Managing Director of VIB, among others.
“We have witnessed an exceptional couple of years in our global and local sector with an explosion of innovation, abundance of capital and critical impact on society, till September of last year. While innovation continues to surge and is our best insurance policy for the future, the dynamics in the financial market have shifted significantly and the sector is currently a little bit more under pressure. Public companies with enough cash and most private companies can weather this storm. Periods of low valuations present opportunities for investors and pharma companies. We are experiencing an unprecedented wave of scientific insights and new technologies leading to positive clinical developments or new products on the market. For the ultimate benefit of the patients”, states Dirk Reyn, chairman of flanders.bio.
An important investment
Birk Vanderweeën, CEO of Legend Biotech Belgium, will also speak at the State of the Union tonight. The Chinese biotech company Legend, which is listed on the American Nasdaq and has its headquarters in the United States, announced a large-scale investment in Zwijnaarde (Ghent) last year. Our country managed to get the investment ahead of a number of other European countries that were competing for the state-of-the-art project. The worldwide good renown of the Flemish biotech hub, the availability of highly educated talent in the region and the collaboration between companies, universities and governments, were strong elements in favour of the Belgian candidacy for this project
Legend is now building the production site for CAR-T cell therapy, together with Janssen Pharmaceutica in Zwijnaarde. The new site in the Tech Lane science park is expected be ready in 2023. More than hundred employees will be hired.
The ‘Young Potentials’
Traditionally, newcomers to the Belgian biotech scene introduce themselves during the State of the Union. This year Fertiga, ImmuneWatch and Abscint are taking the stage. Fertiga is a spin-off from the VUB (University of Brussels) that developed a test before infertility treatments. ImmuneWatch, originated in the University of Antwerp (UA), focuses on T-cell sequencing data. Abscint, also a spin-off from the VUB and with its research facilities in Liège, develops technology for molecular imaging in two domains: cancer and cardiovascular disease.
‘knowledge for growth’
Every year the State of the Union gives the start shot for the annual biotech congress ‘knowledge for growth’, which is already in its 18th edition this year. Over the past years, knowledge for growth has grown to become one of Europe’s leading life sciences business conferences. Organised by flanders.bio, the event welcomes every year over 1.000 participants from industry, academia and government. The more than 70 speakers in the plenary and breakouts sessions highlight the new evolutions in life sciences sector from a technological, finance, market and business perspective. The almost 100 exhibitors showcase the best the sector has to offer. The professional partnering system allows participants from over 17 countries to arrange meetings and do business. It is the one day that is marked way in advance in the agenda of many life sciences professionals in Belgium and the regions surrounding our country.
For more information: https://knowledgeforgrowth.be/
flanders.bio is a dynamic, member driven organisation with currently more than 340 members from Belgium and abroad. We help our members to create value by organising Networking and Training Activities, supporting Internationalisation, providing Services and building Expertise. flanders.bio and its members want to be the proud advocates of a reputable global-impact ecosystem in life sciences.
VIB is a life sciences research institute, based in Flanders, Belgium. We perform basic research with a strong focus on translatingg scientific results into pharmaceutical, agricultural and industrial applications.
For more information: https://vib.be/
About KBC Securities
KBC Securities is a major Belgian investment bank and a subsidiary of KBC Group NV. It advises companies about their strategic development and provides funding to facilitate it. It specializes in drawing up tailored solutions in a range of domains.
Public companies looking to raise fresh capital can count on KBC Securities' considerable capacity to place shares and bonds. In this regard, it is the undisputed market leader in Belgian capital market transactions. An experienced, locally integrated team knows the market inside out and is on hand to provide advice and assistance. Institutional investors can access financial services relating to the European and US markets. KBC Securities has three core franchises: real estate, life sciences and technology.
KBC Securities offers a dynamic team of specialists, its network and expertise in mergers and acquisitions to private companies that are looking to make their next strategic move. Through its affiliation with Oaklins, the global market leader for advice to small and midcap companies, KBC Securities provides access to 40 countries and a network of 800 M&A experts who boast local sector knowledge.
For more information: https://www.kbcsecurities.com/
PMV is a Flemish investment company that focuses on the economic future of Flanders. PMV finances promising companies from the very beginning to growth and internationalization. PMV offers tailor-made financial solutions to entrepreneurs with a good business plan and a strong management team through capital, loans and guarantees. In addition, they realize projects with and for the government, in collaboration with various partners, that are important for prosperity and well-being in Flanders. PMV has a portfolio of 1.64 billion euros under management.
For more information: https://www.pmv.eu