Avantor, the Radnor- and Center Valley-based drug-laboratory equipment and chemical supplier, began trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday after pricing its initial public stock offering (IPO) at $14 a share.
The stock closed at $14.48, and the company expected around $3 billion will be raised from the sale, which, after the bankers’ and brokers’ share, will go to its investors, led by the New Mountain Capital private equity group, former Rohm & Haas CEO Raj Gupta, and Goldman Sachs, the New York investment bank.
The total makes it one of the most valuable IPOs by a Philadelphia-area company in recent years. “Clearly we have built a world class company in growing health care space and certainly current owners have done well financially," said Gupta, in an email to the Inquirer.
But the investors had hoped for a significantly higher share price, earlier telling the Securities and Exchange Commission that they hoped the stock would fetch around $19.50 a share, valuing the company at close to $7 billion — a rich valuation for a firm with sales approaching $6 billion a year including recent acquisitions, debt of $7 billion, and no profits.
The Avantor share sale comes a week after the year’s largest U.S. IPO to date, Uber. Its shares fell in initial trading amid concerns it will be tough to earn the profits needed to justify a high price.
On Thursday, Avantor cut its price target and said it would sell more shares so its investors could still get paid close to what they had hoped to earn from the IPO.
Avantor was created from the merger of the former VWR, a Radnor lab-glass and equipment supplier, with a group of pharmaceutical supply and chemical makers acquired by Gupta and his New Mountain colleagues since 2010. Gupta has said he was advised by veteran deal-makers including Edward Breen — a New Hope resident and DowDuPont CEO who previously ran Tyco International, cutting costs and breaking up both companies to boost sagging shareholder profits. Breen is also lead independent director at Comcast Corp.
Besides consolidating plants and laying off more of the company’s 12,000 workers worldwide, Avantor managers, led by CEO Michael Stubblefield, told the SEC they hope to boost profits by increasing sales and buying and consolidating companies.
The IPO culminates 10 years of effort by Gupta, Avantor’s chairman, to build another public chemical company after selling Rohm & Haas to Dow.
Avantor has a strong market position in the United States and Europe. The company claims as customers the 10 largest drug makers, medical-device makers, and diagnostic firms, as well as large semiconductor makers, aerospace companies, and 19 of the 20 largest U.S. and European universities.
Almost three-quarters of the company’s sales are from “materials and consumables” — lab glassware and custom supplies, chemicals, testing and clinical trial kits.
So where can Avantor boost its sales? "China, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe offer a strong opportunity for growth,” Avantor said in its SEC registration statement.