Interview of Franck Mouthon, co-founder and CEO of Theranexus
“An IPO is a demanding, structurally significant process in which high quality support is crucial”
The date is 30 October 2017: Theranexus, a biotech firm specialised in neurological diseases, rings the opening bell at 9 a.m. to mark its first day of listing on Euronext. Franck Mouthon, co-founder and CEO of Theranexus, recounts the journey of this Lyon-based company, which took him from biopharmaceutical research to the stock market.
What made you decide on an initial public offering?
The idea of going public took root in February 2017, in consultation with our shareholders. Given the company’s profile and after a first round of financing, we saw the stock market as an opportunity to turbocharge our growth plans for Theranexus’ platform and drug candidates.
We set up the IPO working group in July. We then filed the base document at the end of August and, with no further ado, got the AMF’s go-ahead at the end of September. Theranexus was listed by end-October. The whole operation went off very smoothly and took very little time. We decided to appoint two complementary underwriter banks: Portzamparc (also our listing sponsor) and Midcap Partners. Portzamparc has extensive experience in biotech, while Midcap Partners has a highly reputed sales force. I believe that this structure enabled us to achieve the best possible outcome for the listing.
You chose to use the exchange’s Pre-Listing Advisory services. Why was that?
After Euronext's TechShare programme, in which we took part in 2015-16, I wanted to meet the Pre-Listing Advisory team as soon as we began thinking about a possible listing, in February 2017. At the same time, I had met a certain number of market consultants that advise companies.
The Pre-Listing Advisory team quickly showed itself to be independent in its dealings with all partners, ready to deploy its skills and expertise to analyse and appraise our choices and fully focused on our growth objectives, all of which were key factors in my decision.
How would you rate the Pre-Listing Advisory team?
Theranexus’ management and shareholders are full of praise for it.
It was a major contributor when it came to forming a rock-solid IPO team and ensuring smooth interactions. It was there to advise us at the key moments, notably introducing us to all the parties involved and coordinating the listing process. This enabled each partner to present its offer on an equal basis.
An IPO is a demanding, structurally significant process in which high quality support is crucial. It is highly rule-bound, calling for the sort of expertise that companies don’t typically have. As well as providing us with very practical recommendations and explanations regarding listing and valuable benchmarks for the various negotiations, the Pre-Listing Advisory team above all allowed us to focus on the essentials, such as preparing our equity story and roadshow.
The team’s quality, explanations, efficiency and unflappability were invaluable to me in this marathon of a process.
How did you prepare for the listing within the company?
I think we underestimated the scale of the process initially, but luckily we had lots of help. Theranexus’ management team had the benefit of a highly professional working group (advisers, banks, lawyers, auditors, PR firm, etc.) to help it gather all the information needed ahead of the IPO.
Ultimately, the operation was a successful one for us, given that the prevailing market conditions were not easy. Announcements by other companies in the sector had changed investor perception of the market during the offer period. Despite this tense context, the team we had formed enabled us to complete the transaction at the exact level we wanted.
Were there difficult moments in preparing the IPO?
Right at the beginning, when you feel responsible for the whole team helping you. You are always worried that the operation won’t go through. The last few days were difficult too, with the publication of bad news on the market and the fear that this would jeopardise the listing. Besides that, there were no other major difficulties as we were swept up in the race to make the listing date on time.
What advice would you give to other executives who are contemplating listing their company?
If you think it’s the best way forward, start getting ready as early as possible and prepare your teams and shareholders. You need to look at the market and analyse the documents of companies already listed in your sector to see what assets are of potential interest to investors. It is important to get help at a very early stage. Theranexus was also lucky to be part of the first year of TechShare, which provided us with a very helpful introduction to how the stock exchange works. And lastly you must not underestimate the influence of external factors during the listing.
Interview by Euronext.