SYDNEY - ForBio Ltd. will join the rush of Australian companies onto the U.S. Nasdaq exchange after abandoning plans to list a separate U.S. subsidiary for its human genetics technology.

ForBio Chairman Neil Summerson wrote to shareholders last week, saying they would be asked to swap their shares in the company for stock in the new American vehicle, although the company also expects to keep an Australian listing.

Most of the details of the Nasdaq float have yet to be sorted out, but observers expect little difficulty in obtaining the necessary shareholder approval for the merger. The U.S. market is, at the moment, far more buoyant than the Australian market, besides being far deeper and listing many more biotechnology stocks.

Australian computer software companies, among other high-tech Australian concerns, recently have been described as more likely to move directly onto the Nasdaq, rather than take the first step onto the local exchange.

ForBio, of Brisbane, is primarily involved in using forestry genetics and robotics to mass produce seedlings for tree plantations. But part of the technology it has developed for trees - an inhibitor which ensures that a foreign gene inserted into an organism's DNA has only the effect intended - has applications to human genetics.

The company originally intended to hold the human genetic technology, plus other applications for animals and fish, in a separate vehicle listed on Nasdaq. (See BioWorld International, July 9, 1997, p. 3.)

As the company business involves plantation operations in Asia, which have been hard hit by the recent turmoil in the region, Summerson's letter to shareholders also flags a “significant“ loss for ForBio in 1997-98. *