Sal Morreale Comments: Blowout Year for IPOs to End with Big Biotech Offering

December 19, 2014, MoneyBeat

The busiest year for IPOs in more than a decade is poised to go out with a bang.

Juno Therapeutics (JUNO), a biotech developing therapies for leukemia and lymphomas, is scheduled to price tonight and begin trading tomorrow. Amid a flurry of demand, the company significantly raised its price range Tuesday to between $21 and $23 for the 9.3 million shares it plans to sell. Juno had previously given a price range of between $15 and $18.

“[This is] probably one of the most highly anticipated deals in biotech,” said Sal Morreale, an institutional salesperson at Cantor Fitzgerald.

If Juno prices at the midpoint of its upwardly revised range, it will debut with a market capitalization of $1.9 billion, the largest valuation for a biotech going public since IPO research firm Renaissance Capital began tracking this kind of data a little over a decade ago.

Juno’s debut marks the last of what has been a busy year for IPOs. Including Juno, 292 companies have listed on U.S. exchanges in 2014, raising an estimated total of $95 billion. That makes 2014 the best year for IPOs by both number of offerings and amount raised since 2000.

This year was particularly busy for biotech firms, which accounted for roughly 25% of U.S.-listed IPOs.

“This is the best biotech market we’ve see in history,” said Kathleen Smith, Principal at Renaissance Capital. “It built up last year, but this year exceeded anything.”

A record 71 biotech companies launched IPOs this year, raising almost $5 billion, according to Renaissance. That’s about double last year’s volume and activity in the area.

Juno could be the icing on the cake to top off such a strong year.

Juno’s peers, which have gone public this year, have received warm welcomes from investors. T-cell based therapy companies Kite Pharma KITE +1.38% and Bluebird Bio BLUE -1.04% have surged since debuting. Bluebird Bio is up 435% from its offer price of $17 a share; Kite Pharma is up 210%.

“[It’s] quite likely [Juno] might price higher,” IPO Financial President David Menlow said. “If the inferred demand is in place to push the price range of the stock up 25%, then it’s a very easy step to make whereby it’s probably going to price at $24 or $25.”