AFT Pharmaceuticals NZX and ASX listing to fund growth

Dr Hartley Atkinson of NZ pharmaceutical firm AFT discusses their plan to list on the NZX and ASX stock exchange.

When Hartley Atkinson started his pharmaceutical company with wife Marree, he never planned to list the business on a stock exchange.

But with a share offer just around the corner on December 4, listing AFT Pharmaceuticals on the NZX and Australia's ASX was an integral part of accelerating growth.

The company confirmed the initial public offering (IPO) after a bookbuild process that has priced its shares at $2.80 each, valuing the company at $269 million.

AFT Pharmaceuticals founder Hartley Atkinson says a big part of listing his company publicly is to hasten the ...
LAWRENCE SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

AFT Pharmaceuticals founder Hartley Atkinson says a big part of listing his company publicly is to hasten the development and expansion of products across more countries.

A total of 11.9 million ordinary shares will be issued raising $33.2m.

Privately owned AFT was started with $50,000 in the back of the family garage on Auckland's North Shore in 1997 after Atkinson was made redundant from global healthcare giant Roche.

Since then the company has expanded to Australia, while growing its headquarters on the North Shore, and has its products in more than 30 other countries through licensing agreements.

Atkinson said as the company grew, a public listing was something they began working towards by putting in the standard governance features like a board of directors, regular audits and other shareholders.

As part of the IPO, the Atkinson Family Trust will sell down $3m of its holding in the company and retain a 76 per cent ownershop.

READ MORE: AFT Pharmaceuticals to list on NZX and ASX in December

Atkinson said giving up part of the company was well worth the opportunity to accelerate growth of the company and development of products.

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"What it means is we'll be able to do the development faster, the company will become more valuable even though it's a small share. It's a much better and more sensible idea."

Much of the products under development were near completion and just needed that extra boost to get them over the line, Atkinson said.

One of those drugs was to help with a rare skin condition where people have up to half their face covered with birthmarks.

Laser treatment was ineffective because the birthmarks grew back. AFT was developing a drug that prevented regrowth.

"I still like to do something good that's good business, but also helps people clinically by providing them with a good product or product they haven't got access to," Atkinson said.

In some ways, AFT swam against the tide of other pharmaceutical companies.

Atkinson has long opposed the use of pseudoephedrine, commonly used as a nasal decongestant, while other pharmaceutical companies vehemently opposed withdrawing the drug.

One of AFT's products was pain relief medication Maxigesic, which Atkinson developed out of a need for a painkiller that did not use codeine, which is a sleep-inducing drug derived from morphine.

Atkinson said codeine was addictive if used for more than three days, had a high instance of side effects and caused nausea and vomiting. 

"All products that we sell we believe in. For us it's really important we develop products that are useful," he said.

Floating the company was just the beginning of a plan to expand sales across more countries in the next three to five years.

 - Stuff

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