Zeltia Said to Explore Spinoff of Cancer Unit PharmaMar

Ecteinastia Turbinata
A sea organism, Ecteinastia Turbinata, from which the cancer drug Yondelis is produced sits in an aquarium at the Zeltia laboratory near Madrid. Photographer: Alex Cid Fuentes/Bloomberg

Zeltia SA, a Spanish company that develops cancer drugs from sea creatures, is considering a spinoff of its biotechnology unit to list it on the Nasdaq Stock Market, according to people familiar with the matter.

The discussions about the future of the PharmaMar unit are preliminary and Zeltia is grappling with the potential tax implications of a spinoff for its own shareholders, the people said, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are private. Joining the Nasdaq may imply de-listing the parent company’s shares in Spain, one person said.

Zeltia is seeking to attract investors who are interested in biotechnology but may be turned off by the Madrid-based company’s other divisions, which make cleaning products, paints and insecticides, the people said. The Nasdaq Biotech Index has soared 74 percent in the past year.

A spokesman for Zeltia declined to comment.

Zeltia rose 2.7 percent to 2.81 euros in Madrid. The stock has gained 22 percent this year, giving the company a market value of 624.4 million euros ($865 million).

Yondelis Drug

PharmaMar, unlike many small biotechnology companies, already has a medicine on the market. The drug, called Yondelis, is sold to treat ovarian tumors and a form of cancer of the body’s connective tissue called soft-tissue sarcoma. Yondelis sales rose 10 percent last year to 73 million euros.

Yondelis was developed from a marine animal known as a mangrove tunicate, though now it’s produced by chemical synthesis. Johnson & Johnson owns the marketing rights for Yondelis outside Europe and Japan.

PharmaMar, founded in 1986, has another four cancer medicines in clinical development. It focuses on finding drugs to treat diseases so rare that medicines for them are categorized as “orphan” and get awarded commercial advantages by regulators.

Zeltia’s net income rose 72 percent to 11.3 million euros last year. Revenue was 142 million euros.

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