PARIS — The initial public offering (IPO) of the French drug discovery company Cerep SA on Paris's Nouveau Marché was completed at a price of FFr225 per share. The offering of 300,000 common shares was more than three times oversubscribed.

At the issue price last week, the company was capitalized at about FFr425 million, but the share price has risen since then. It stood at FFr260 Monday, representing a premium of 15.5 percent. That will not displease one big corporate investor, the French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi SA, which acquired FFr22.6 million worth of Cerep's equity at the issue price under terms of a four-year collaboration the two companies signed Dec. 1, 1997.

The IPO went ahead this month after being canceled before Christmas because of unfavorable market conditions. (See BioWorld International, Dec. 24, 1997, p. 2.)

According to Frédéric de Villele, managing director of broker Pinatton Finance, which handled the issue, the offering was rescheduled following a sudden resurgence of interest in January and proved to be a very successful operation.

The Nouveau Marché was created in 1996 and remains very small relative to Nasdaq in the U.S., but de Villele says it has got off to a good start and has proved its worth. Twenty companies obtained listings last year, and the total now stands at 40 (including Cerep). Moreover, the Paris stock exchange expects a further 20 to 25 companies to be approved for quotation on the Nouveau Marché this year.

Only four or five of those listed can be classified as biotechnology companies, but one of those, Paris-based Genset SA, has the biggest capitalization of any company quoted on the Nouveau Marché. — James Etheridge