Hong Kong start-up Prenetics to list in the U.S. through $1.7 billion SPAC deal


Hong Kong biotech company Prenetics is going public through a merger with Artisan Acquisition — a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC — in a deal that will value the combined entity at $1.7 billion, the companies announced Thursday.

Confirming CNBC’s earlier report, the two companies said the transaction is expected to close as early as the fourth quarter.

This will make Prenetics the first Hong Kong unicorn, or billion-dollar start-up, to become a publicly traded company.

Prenetics CEO Danny Yeung (left) and Artisan Acquisition’s founder Adrian Cheng, who is also CEO and Executive Vice Chairman of New World Development. Prenetics is going public through a SPAC merger with Artisan Acquisition that will value the combined entity at $1.7 billion.

Source: Prenetics

The combined company will be traded on the Nasdaq under a new ticker symbol PRE upon completion.

The merger is expected to provide up to $459 million in cash proceeds, which will go toward strategic acquisitions, geographical expansion and research and development.

Artisan Acquisition is backed by Adrian Cheng, CEO and Executive Vice Chairman of Hong Kong-listed New World Development. Prenetics — a diagnostic and genetic testing company which operates in 10 countries — looks to draw upon Cheng’s business portfolio which spans retail, hospitality, health care, and property.

Investing in M&A

Prenetics was picked for several reasons, according to Ben Cheng, CEO of Artisan Acquisition.

The Hong Kong-based start-up is a high-growth company that is disrupting the health-care industry and is led by an established entrepreneur, Cheng told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Thursday.

He was referring to the Artisan’s CEO and co-founder, Danny Yeung, who was previously with Groupon.

“We are very confident about his track record,” Cheng said.

For his part, Yeung told CNBC a top priority for Prenetics would be to use its cash proceeds from the deal for mergers and acquisitions.

“U.S. is a priority market for us, Southeast Asia and the rest of Europe — certainly, we are going to be investing back into growth, manufacturing, product development and R&D,” he said Thursday.

To date, Prenetics has conducted more than 5 million Covid-19 tests for clients including the Hong Kong government and London Heathrow Airport.

It counts names like Chinese internet company Alibaba, and insurers Ping An and Prudential as strategic investors.  

The company has grown significantly since its founding in 2014. It projects 2021 revenue to jump three-fold year-on-year to $205 million and hit $600 million by 2025.

— CNBC’s Saheli Roy Choudhury contributed to this report.

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