Oxford Nanopore, one of Britain’s most beloved tech start-ups, will use an ‘anti-takeover’ structure during its next IPO so it can fend off foreign bidders and become a national champion.
The company, which emerged from the University of Oxford in 2005, had a landmark year after its DNA sequencing technology became essential in tracking the spread of Covid-19 variants around the world. Its devices have been used in 85 countries, and around 18% of all coronavirus genomes in the world have been executed on them.
In March, it announced it would be listed on the London market in the second half of this year, with analysts expecting it to reach a valuation of between £ 4 billion and £ 7 billion. Since then, he has raised an additional 195 million pounds from investors, including Singaporean Temasek.
This week, the company sought shareholder approval to give its chief executive, Gordon Sanghera, “limited anti-takeover actions” so that he could veto a hostile takeover bid. These shares expire after three years and do not confer any other voting rights.
Sanghera said he was determined to avoid the fate of other top UK life science companies that had been bought out by foreign rivals.
Discussing British innovation, Sanghera told the FT: “Medisense was an Oxford spin-off that was sold to Abbott in 1996 for $ 876 million and Solexa was sold to Illumina ten years later for $ 600 million. dollars. The deal with Solexa helped Illumina, now worth $ 70 billion, to become the world’s dominant sequencing company.
“Myself and our CTO Clive Brown [a former Solexa employee] don’t see them as big hits. We saw this as a sad end to what could be a globally dominant technology, and no income really came back to this country, ”Sanghera said.
Sanghera said Oxford Nanopore chose to enroll in London because it saw itself as a British achievement.
“What we set out to do initially is build a global technology company that ranges from university start-up to early-commercialization, which this country has a great reputation for, but then companies like this are generally acquired, ”he said.
“For us, the next five years will prove the ability of UK tech companies to really take the next step and become commercially dominant. . . show strong business growth globally. And really take the business beyond the acquisition phase.
The company hired Bank of America, JPMorgan and Citi to advise them on the process.
Other UK listed companies, including The Hut Group and Deliveroo, have also attempted to retain greater control for founders with dual class share structures in recent months. Such structures were common in Silicon Valley, but Deliveroo’s IPO came under attack from UK fund managers due to the control its founder, Will Shu, retained.
Sanghera said: “A confluence of the pandemic which means people understand better what we are doing and the government wants to support tech companies [means] London has become much more attractive than a year ago. We think so. . . It only takes a handful of companies to change this paradigm.