PARIS — The Paris-based drug discovery company Cerep, which canceled an initial public offering last December because of unfavorable market conditions, has relaunched the operation and is due to complete the sale of 300,000 shares next week.

Cerep's listing on France's Nouveau Marché will become effective Feb. 18

The public offering activated a clause in a four-year collaboration, worth FFr190 million, signed with the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi SA, of Paris, on Dec. 1, 1997. That provided for Sanofi to purchase a shareholding worth a maximum of FFr30 million in Cerep at the issue price, corresponding to a 5 to 6 percent stake.

In addition, during December Sanofi made its first research and development payment of FFr3.5 million to its new partner. Cerep is selling less shares than it originally planned, and at a lower price.

When the decision to seek a listing was announced last November, Cerep planned to sell 400,000 shares, 20 percent of its equity, to the public at a price of FFr260 to FFr300. They were to include 300,000 new shares, and that figure has not changed, but the sale of shares by existing shareholders has been abandoned.

Before scrapping the share issue altogether in December, Cerep proposed to reduce the total number of shares sold to 350,000 and to reduce the price to FFr215 to FFr245. (See BioWorld International, Dec. 24, 1997, p. 2.)

The lower price has been retained, although the company has since announced better than expected results for 1997. Its turnover last year increased by 95.9 percent to FFr48.4 million from FFr24.7 million in 1996, whereas it had been projected at FFr45 million when the share issue was announced.

On the other hand, the company did experience a small, as yet undisclosed, loss after reporting net profits of FFr2.3 million in 1995 and FFr2.5 million in 1996. This was expected, however, since the share issue prospectus forecast a loss of FFr1.4 million in 1997.

Cerep anticipates further substantial revenue growth in 1998, and has already concluded three new contracts since the beginning of the year, one of them with Schering-Plough Corp., of Madison, N.J. Its main activity is the predictive testing of new drugs to evaluate their toxicity and safety, using an advanced technological platform covering all stages of the drug discovery process. (See BioWorld International, Dec. 3, 1997, p. 1.)

Schering-Plough joins a customer list that includes some of the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies, such as Glaxo-Wellcome plc, of London, Hoffman-La Roche Ltd., of Basel, Switzerland, Pfizer Inc., of New York, and Rhône-Poulenc Rorer, of Collegeville, Pa.