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South Korea's SK Biopharmaceuticals shares soar 30% in market debut


SEOUL (Reuters) - SK Biopharmaceuticals Co Ltd <326030.KS> saw its share price jump nearly 30% in a Seoul stock market debut on Thursday, as the initial public offering (IPO) market gathers steam after the novel coronavirus outbreak stalled potential listings.

SK Biopharmaceuticals' shares debuted at double their IPO price on Thursday at 98,000 won, valuing the company about 7.7 trillion won ($6.41 billion).

In early morning trade, the stock rose as much as 29.6% from its opening price to 127,000 won, compared with a 0.7% rise in the wider KOSPI <.KS11>.

The company, the first South Korean firm to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for an independently developed drug, priced its IPO last month at 49,000 won per share, the top of its indicative range.

Investors are betting on strong growth for SK Biopharmaceuticals which makes a drug called Xcopri, a treatment for epilepsy.

Analysts said a slew of pharmaceutical and biotech companies around the world have been scrambling to find ways to move their initial public offerings forward, as they are less immune to volatile market swings.

"The listing by SK Biopharmaceuticals could ignite South Korea's IPO market that has shrunk sharply in the first half of this year due to the pandemic, potentially helping spur a recovery in the market," said analyst Lee Sang-hun at Hi Investment & Securities.

The drugmaker set up a U.S. sales office and began distribution of the anti-epilepsy drug in the United States in May, and "the volume of prescriptions exceeded our expectations," Chief Executive Cho Jeong-woo told a news conference last month.

The firm expects the drug to be ready to launch in Europe in 2021. It has also developed and licensed out a narcolepsy treatment that has received U.S. and European approval, and has a pipeline of eight compounds in development.

(Reporting by Heekyong Yang and Joyce Lee; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Christopher Cushing)

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