HBM BioVentures to list

The Swiss venture firm is set to tap the public markets in a rare move, joining the ranks of larger buyout firms that came to market last year.

Swiss venture capitalist HBM BioVentures plans to list on the SWX Swiss Exchange raising an undisclosed sum, the venture firm said in a statement.

The firm will issue a limited number of shares and list all the company’s shares on the stock exchange.

HBM had net assets of CHF1.1 billion ($1 billion; €682 million) corresponding to a net asset value per share of CHF101.93 at the end of December 2007.

Swiss bank UBS is global co-ordinator and sole bookrunner of the offering. The banks Merrill Lynch International, Sal Oppenheim & Cie and Neue Zürcher Bank are co-lead managers.

The group will test the demand for venture stock after a slew of larger buyout firms tapped markets in the last 18 months either by floating funds like Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Apollo Management or by selling part of the firm like The Blackstone Group and Fortress.

In the UK, listed venture vehicles have a history. UK investment firm 3i, which invests in venture alongside its diversified activities, has been listed since 1994.

Venture capital trusts (VCTs) were introduced by the UK government in 1995 as a means to encourage investment into UK smaller companies. As well as the potential for returns, VCTs offer individuals a series of tax advantages, including 30 percent upfront income tax relief

Numerous venture capital trusts such as Octopus Private Equity and Foresight Group have launched in the UK taking advantage of government tax laws to encourage public investors in the asset class.

However venture firm initial public offerings such as HBM’s plan are rare. Safeguard Scientifics, a company that makes venture investments in technology and health-care concerns, is traded on the New York stock exchange.

Many of the larger buyout firms that have listed in the last year have had an uneasy relationship with the public markets. US investment firm The Blackstone Group’s share price has tumbled by more than a third to $19.7 per share at the market’s close yesterday since its listing last year. The firm has launched a $500 million repurchase programme. Investment firm Fortress Investment Group’s share price also reached its lowest point at the beginning of the month having tapped the markets slightly before Blackstone.