PARIS - Just three days before its Feb. 22 initial public offering on France's Nouveau Marchi was due to be completed, Biovector Therapeutics announced that it was postponing the issue. The company explained that, although the offer was oversubscribed, the "stock market context is not very favorable to average stocks, and especially not to biotechnology companies."

Chairman Emile Loria told BioWorld International the lead banker, Paribas, pulled the plug on the operation because of concern about the "after-market" for Biovector's shares, at a time when the Nouveau Marchi is suffering from low liquidity. He added that the situation was complicated by the fact that Paribas is in the midst of a merger with another French bank, Sociiti Ginirale, and that investor attitude towards biotech had been adversely affected by the latest bad news from British Biotech plc. The company plans to reactivate its IPO as quickly as possible, although that "depends on the development of the market," Loria said. "It could happen within the next few weeks."

Toulouse-based Biovector, which is developing a range of novel drug delivery systems, announced its IPO at the beginning of February. The company hoped to raise 26 million euros to 30.5 million euros (FFr170.5 million to FFr200 million, or US$29.7 million to US$34.8 million) by offering 5 million new shares, 33 percent of its equity, at a price of 5.20 euros to 6.10 euros, not counting an overallotment provision of 750,000 shares.

However, the company has sufficient cash on hand to finance its research and development program for nearly two years at the current burn rate of FFr50 million to FFr60 million, since it had reserves of more than FFr100 million at the end of 1998.

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