Covington & Burling advises life sciences company Horizon on AIM IPO

Covington & Burling has advised new client Horizon Discovery on its admission to the Aim market, as the biotech market continues to pick up in the UK.

Covington’s City office won the mandate thanks to an existing relationship with the new chairman of Horizon’s board, Ian Gilham. He turned to the firm in his former role, as CEO of life sciences business Axis-Shield, when the company was bought out by US healthcare technology giant Alere for £235m in 2011.

The firm was also recommended to Horizon by the nominated adviser and sole broker on the floatation, Panmure Gordon.

Covington fielded a team led by its European corporate head Paul Claydon and capital markets partner Natalie Walter to advise Horizon on the transaction. The pair was assisted by tax and employee benefits of counsel Guy Dingley, and associates Simon Williams, Sarah Hoult and Stephanie Le Couteur.

Field Fisher Waterhouse advised Panmure Gordon on the IPO. Capital markets partner Dominic Guerney-Chamption led the team on the deal, alongside IP and technology disputes partner Beatriz San Martin and associate Ed Westhead.

Cambridge-based Horizon supplies research tools to pharmaceutical companies such as AstraZeneca and Merck & Co. Backed by investors DFJ Esprit, it is at the forefront of the personalised medicine industry – tailoring drugs to individual needs. The IPO secured £68.6m in funding from investors, achieving a market cap of £120m.

Horizon’s IPO follows that of Oxford-based allergy treatment-maker Circassia last month.

Circassia was the first biotech company to list on London’s main market since 2006, and thought to be among the largest biotech companies ever to float on the London markets. The IPO, which valued the company at £581m, raised £200m.

Allen & Overy advised the company on its floatation, led by UK equity capital markets head Mark Dighero. 

Osborne Clarke advised a syndicate of institutional investors, which included Imperial Innovations and Investo Perpetual, on the transaction. The firm fielded a team including corporate partner Rob Wood, corporate finance partners Jonathan King and James Massy-Collier, and associate director Ray Coyle.

Wood is familiar with the client, having advised the syndicate on all of its previous funding rounds. In April 2011, it raised £60m marking the third largest financing for a private European biotech company for 15 years.

Meanwhile, Simmons & Simmons advised the underwriters and joint bookrunners, led by corporate finance partner Colin Bole.

It has been reported that Circassia plans to use the money to market its cat-allergy vaccine, Cat-SPIRE.

Prior to the flotation of Circassia, the UK’s largest biotech IPO over the past 25 years was that of Oxford Glycosciences, which went public in 2000 with a £115m share offering.