Biomarker of Quality? Venture-Backed Biotech IPOs and Insider Participation

Corporate financial managers of biotech firms need long-term financing to reach key milestones, and that requires a long-term capital structure.

In Hans Jeppsson’s article on venture capitalists and IPOs from our JACF Winter issue the author discusses how corporate financial managers of biotech firms must balance a mix of investors with different objectives and different investment horizons that includes traditional venture capitalists and also hedge funds and mutual funds. This study helps practitioners understand the complex role of exit decisions, as venture capitalists seek better exit strategies and performance. IPOs are financing but not “exit” moves.

In addition to certifying firm value, insider purchasing of shares in the IPO offering has two major consequences. First, venture capitalists reallocate large sums of capital from early-stage to late-stage deals that are expected to have lower risk (but also lower expected return) and shorter time to exit. Second, the speed at which VCs exit after the IPO depends on the firm ownership structure after the IPO and the stock liquidity. Going public with a significant participation by venture capitalists will probably increase the post-IPO ownership and decrease the free float of the stock, implying a delay of the exit and the realization of the capital gains from the investments.

Although this study has focused exclusively on the biotechnology industry, insider participation is not unique to it. Biotech’s venture brethren in the software and technology industries also have insider participation in IPOs. During 2003-2015, approximately 41 venture-backed firms outside of the biotechnology sector had insider participation.

Authored by Hans Jeppsson, University of Gothenburg

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