Start-ups shot down as credit crunches

By Nick Taylor

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Initial public offering, Venture capital

The credit crunch is putting the squeeze on start-ups and
established companies alike, with numerous firms struggling to
obtain the financing that is their lifeblood.

It has been a disastrous quarter for companies backed by venture capitalists, with not a single firm in any industry receiving an initial public offering (IPO). This last happened in 1978. The nature of pharmaceutical and biotech start-ups, with their high rates of expenditure and no income, means they are hit particularly hard when funding sources dry up. Steven Burrill, CEO of Burrill & Company, said: "With the first half of the year dominated by macroeconomic factors such as inflation, recession, credit market turmoil and escalating oil prices it is not surprising that biotech IPOs were virtually non-existent with only one biotech IPO to date in 2008​." Last year 35 biotech companies went public, generating funding of $5.5bn. Members of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) attributed the decline predominately to "skittish investors" and the credit crunch. The NCVA's report also found that two-thirds of its members believe that companies are less likely to want to go public than three years ago. Financial fire singes higher rungs ​ SkyePharma's shares suffered a record fall of 32 per cent upon news that it has failed to raise funds or renegotiate convertible bonds. CEO Frank Condella said in May that owing to current economic conditions it will be unable to meet the obligations of its £69.6m in bonds. The company had been trying to come to an arrangement but has now said that "in the light of current capital market conditions the discussions on the specific proposal are not being pursued at the present time​". SkyePharma's pipeline is looking strong with a new drug application (NDA) due to be filed for its lead product Flutiform (fluticasone/formoterol) in the first quarter of 2009 but this has not protected it in the current climate. Another sizeable company feeling the burn is WuXi PharmaTech, which has withdrawn its registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a public offering of up to 10.1m American depositary shares. The company cited market conditions and the current trading price of its American depository shares as reasons behind the move. Even big pharma, which since 1945 has suffered the smallest declines during recessions, has been hit, with the AMEX Pharmaceutical Index falling this year.

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