Abcam founder speaks out against growing exodus of British life sciences companies
- Jonathan Milner founded the biotechnology group Abcam in 1998
- Milner now aims to thwart a takeover bid in the US and says it would list in the UK
- The company moved its stock listing to New York’s Nasdaq technology market in 2020
The businessman behind one of Britain’s most successful life sciences companies has vowed to bring it back to the London stock exchange.
Jonathan Milner, a leading UK breast cancer specialist who founded a Cambridge-based biotechnology group Abcam in 1998, he sought to thwart a US takeover bid.
The company moved its stock listing to New York’s Nasdaq technology market in 2020.
If Milner is successful, it would be a major vote of confidence in UK life sciences and the London stock market.
Successful: Jonathan Milner founded the Cambridge-based biotechnology group Abcam in 1998
It would also mark a fight against the trend of British companies leaving London and could inspire other companies to stop or even reverse the exodus.
Milner told The Mail on Sunday that if he manages to block the bid from US conglomerate Danaher, he will list Abcam on the main market of the London Stock Exchange.
“I will definitely, definitely, definitely do that,” he said.
Abcam was originally listed on the London Alternative Investment Market. It exited there in December, leaving it with an exclusive listing on Nasdaq.
Milner says he would maintain a listing on Nasdaq and another in London.
A homecoming for Abcam would amount to a significant shift in the tide of London-listed companies that have rejected Britain in favor of the United States.
The recent diaspora includes computer chip maker Arm, also based in Cambridge, and construction materials group CRH.
Company bosses complain about onerous regulation in the UK and argue that there is a larger, more knowledgeable group of tech investors in the US, so their shares will be valued higher there.
Executive pay packages are much higher on the other side of the Atlantic.
Abcam makes biologics that are used to help scientists conduct research. The company is worth $3.4bn (£2.8bn) and employs around 5,500 people in the UK.
Milner led the company for 16 years before resigning in 2014. This year he has been waging a campaign against a planned $5.7 billion acquisition of the company by Danaher, which is backed by the company’s current management.
He remains Abcam’s second-largest investor with a 6.2 percent stake and insists Danaher’s offer undervalues the company. Milner also alleges that the company’s directors have been influenced by the lucrative payments they would receive if the deal goes ahead.
He is urging other shareholders to oppose the deal at a meeting on Nov. 6, which will require at least 75 percent of the vote to approve the acquisition. Milner is also calling on investors to remove the board of directors and install him as CEO.
Activist shareholder Headwaters Capital also publicly questioned the acquisition.
Milner said he has had “private conversations” and has received “good support” from investors.
He told the Mail on Sunday that it is “hugely worrying” that foreign groups have been able to buy so much UK intellectual property in biosciences.
“We allow this to happen too easily and it just destroys value,” he added. “This country desperately needs to create industry and wealth.”