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UK pharma startup targets Gulf for future IPO

Doctors in a hospital operating theatre Unsplash/National Cancer Institute
Ambrose Healthcare aims to provide treatments for rare diseases and address the unmet needs of patients in hospital or specialist care facilities
  • Ambrose Healthcare is planning a regional HQ in UAE or Saudi
  • Some healthcare firms looking to Middle East instead of US for listings
  • Region’s healthcare spending is growing at over 5% a year

UK pharmaceutical startup Ambrose Healthcare has revealed plans for a stock market listing in the Middle East.

Ambrose Healthcare aims to provide treatments for rare diseases and address the unmet needs of patients in hospital or specialist care facilities.

The Cambridge-based company is undertaking a six-month “small fundraising” of £1 million, and has so far raised just over half its target amount since January.

Toby Wilson Waterworth, chairman and chief executive, said the funding had come from a combination of the Ambrose Healthcare team itself, angel investors and collaborators, adding: “I’m pleased with the progress that we’re making.”

The business is set to establish a regional headquarters in either the UAE or Saudi Arabia, where it will be able to manage clinical trials and launch collaborations in Asia.

Research from Dubai-based investment banking advisory firm Alpen Capital predicted that healthcare spending in the region will reach $135.5 billion in 2027, implying an annual growth rate of 5.4 percent from $104.1 billion last year.

Dual listing

While Wilson Waterworth conceded that the company was currently “too small” to turn the heads of the region’s sovereign wealth funds, he said the next stage would be to identify “long-term investors in the growth of the business up to IPO”.

He was previously a shareholder in Atlantic Healthcare, which had investigated launching a dual listing IPO in London and Saudi Arabia.

Wilson Waterworth said a similar dual listing was being targeted for Ambrose within the next four or five years, or even a dual listing entirely in the region.

This aim would emulate the success of fast food operator Americana Restaurants, which listed on both the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange and Tadawul in Saudi in December last year.

“A lot of companies in our sector have been looking to the US, but over the last number of years we predicted the Middle Eastern stock exchanges would strengthen and that’s exactly what they have done,” he said.

“I think the region’s access to capital and liquidity and growth offers attractive complementary markets to the others.”

Ambrose Healthcare is aiming to become a key player in the rare diseases sector.

There are between 6,000 and 8,000 rare diseases identified worldwide, impacting 300 million people, according to the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations. The body represents the research-based pharmaceutical industry to the UN and on the global stage.

More than 700 medicines are in development across the world, targeting many known rare diseases.