PwC implemented adequate internal controls to assure compliance with SOx regulations after the client's NASDAQ IPO.
With its sights set firmly on becoming a leading global biopharmaceutical player in the field of immunology, argenx realised that it would need additional financial resources. And the best way to gain access to those resources was to become a listed company.
It’s ultimate ambition was to be listed on the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations exchange (NASDAQ). Companies listed on NASDAQ must be fully compliant with the Sarbanes–Oxley Act (SOx) of 2002. For that, it required expert assistance. argenx reached out - based on multiple recommendations, including from another Big Four firm - to PwC for help.
argenx established itself in 2008 in Ghent, Belgium, with a handful of people. It now boasts more than 400 employees and has operations in three countries; Belgium, Japan and the US. Since mid 2018, argenx has been part of the “BEL 20”, the benchmark stock market index of Euronext Brussels. It focuses on innovation to improve the lives of patients suffering from severe autoimmune disease and cancer.
To date, argenx has built up a broad, diverse and mature pipeline of products, one of which the company expects to launch in the US in 2021, following approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“Developing programmes and bringing drugs to the market and patients requires substantial financial resources,” explains Eric Castaldi, CFO, argenx. “When you want to go public, having access to financial markets is a must,” he adds.
Realising it wasn’t yet ready for NASDAQ, argenx opted first for an IPO on Euronext, Europe’s largest stock exchange. This made the firm much more visible to investors and financial analysts and helped it move on to its main ambition NASDAQ.
While NASDAQ would offer argenx access to a much larger pool of sophisticated investors specialised in biotech, it also meant that the company would no longer qualify as a smaller reporting company. That meant that it would have to make sure it was fully SOx compliant, something it was not at all prepared for at the time. Reaching out to contacts for help and advice - including to other biotech companies in Belgium and even its own auditor, general consensus was clear; PwC was the firm to help with this very specific topic.
argenx tasked PwC with the set up of an adequate internal controls system that would enable it to be SOx compliant in due time. “PwC in Belgium’s recognised as the best party to go to for support with NASDAQ IPO preparation, to make sure you’ve got an adequate controls system in place,” enthuses Eric Castaldi.
That PwC’s part of a global network was also an important selling point.
“Over the years, we’ve become a more international company and need help in the different countries, which have different regulatory environments, in which we operate. PwC now supports us with tax topics, payroll, cybersecurity and IFRS (International Finance Reporting Standards), as well as internal controls. With experts on hand locally in all locations, we know we can check decisions with subject-matter specialists before we make them. With help from PwC, we’ve a clear view on the consequences of the decisions we make in these domains. This helps validate our approach with regards to markets and regulations, which is very important for a listed biotech company,” Eric Castaldi says.
Our broad industry experience was also key and offered additional reassurance that argenx was in good hands. “That PwC had successfully supported other biotech companies with the same move was very comforting. It also meant we could benefit from efficiencies in solving the questions and issues that one faces when undertaking an IPO. Importantly, with PwC we could address issues not just in our local market, but on a worldwide scale,” notes Eric Castaldi.
As a Big Four player with the necessary audit expertise, argenx finds that PwC also helps it make the most of its auditor and how topics are approached. Eric Castaldi adds, “All the PwC experts we work with are very transparent and honest. We have a really good, trustful relationship, which is exactly what we’re looking for in a global partner.”
Another key PwC trait that impressed argenx was that our experts approach every challenge with a blank sheet of paper, looking first to understand what argenx is looking to achieve and then finding the most appropriate approach and solution.
“We feel very much that we’re listened to. We don’t need an expert that comes in with pre-defined recipes. We need a partner that takes a solutions-oriented approach and works with us to find the right answers together. That’s exactly what we’ve got with PwC,” Eric Castaldi enthuses.
As argenx seeks to take an increasingly global approach to its business, it’s aware that it’ll need consistent and coherent support around the world.
“PwC’s become a very important partner for argenx in many areas. Going forward, we’re looking to fully utilise the vast range of services it offers, and that around the globe. This way, we can be sure that we’re operating in the most optimal way. This will become increasingly important as we continue to expand our business,” Eric Castaldi concludes.
Partner, PwC Belgium
Tel: +32 479 79 45 06
Partner, PwC Belgium
Tel: +32 47 326 9227
Thomas De Cuyper
Director, PwC Belgium
Tel: +32 499 58 95 60