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Korea Exchange decides to delist SillaJen

A group of SillaJen’s small-scale individual shareholders hold a protest to call for resumption of the biotech company’s stock trading in front of the Korea Exchange in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
A group of SillaJen’s small-scale individual shareholders hold a protest to call for resumption of the biotech company’s stock trading in front of the Korea Exchange in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
The Korea Exchange on Tuesday announced its decision to delist biotech company SillaJen, 20 months after the biotech company’s market transactions were stopped due to breach of trust and embezzlement charges.

The stock market operator will hold a Kosdaq market committee within the next 20 business days to finalize whether it will push ahead with the delisting decision or give SillaJen a second chance at revival.

Although the company can raise an objection to the market committee if it orders delisting, the committee will still make the final decision, hampering chances of SillaJen’s redemption.

The KRX halted SillaJen’s stock from trading in May 2020 after an investigation was launched into allegations of insider trading involving the firm’s key figures including former CEO Moon Eun-sang. Moon and other senior executives were eventually indicted over charges of embezzlement and breach of trust.

The price of a SillaJen stock once was traded as high as 152,300 won ($128), as the biotech firm became the second-largest company by market value on the country’s secondary bourse Kosdaq.

But in August 2019, SillaJen’s shares plunged on the reports that Pexa-Vec, the firm’s anti-cancer drug candidate, had failed its third-phase clinical trial. It continued the free fall to hit 12,100 won by the time of the suspension order.

In August 2020, the KRX held the first company review committee over SillaJen’s fate of staying listed or getting delisted, but could not come up with a conclusion. This led to a one-year reprieve for the biotech company starting November in the same year.

As required by authorities, SillaJen set up a stable governance structure by bringing in the new largest shareholder M2N, which acquired an 18.23 percent stake in the biotech company in July last year. On top of the investment from M2N, SillaJen raised 100 billion won through two rounds of rights offering.

The biotech firm submitted the related documents to the KRX last month to show that it carried out the improvement plan to better management transparency, financial stability and business sustainability along with confirmation from experts to back up the validity.

SillaJen made its Kosdaq debut in December 2016, with investors touting Pexa-Vec as the ultimate anti-cancer drug candidate.

Meanwhile, earlier in the day a group of SillaJen’s small-scale shareholders held a mass demonstration in front of the Korea Exchange in Yeouido to call for the resumption of the biotech company’s stock trading.

“We believe the transaction will be resumed because the company met all the demands made by the Korea Exchange during the improvement period,” the group said.

“We are here to urge the resumption of the transaction today with all the wishes of 170,000 shareholders and their families.“

According to the company’s quarterly report, SillaJen had 174,186 small-scale shareholders at the end of 2020.

By Kan Hyeong-woo (hwkan@heraldcorp.com)
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