HONG KONG • Ms Zhong Huijuan quit her job teaching chemistry to teenagers and got into the drug business. The career switch has paid off handsomely.
Her Hansoh Pharmaceutical Group, China's largest maker of psychotropic drugs, is set to list today in Hong Kong with a market value of US$10.4 billion (S$14.2 billion).
Hansoh's cornerstone investors include Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC and Hillhouse Capital, Asia's biggest private equity buyer, helping to draw more market interest in today's initial public offering (IPO).
Ms Zhong holds a 68 per cent stake, giving her a US$7.9 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
If Ms Zhong, 58, is rich, her husband is even richer. Mr Sun Piaoyang, 60, is worth US$9.3 billion, thanks to the success of his Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine, a maker of anti-tumour drugs whose stock has returned about 16,300 per cent since it went public in Shanghai almost two decades ago.
They are poised to be among the world's richest pharma families, with a combined fortune that rivals the Sacklers in the US, who made a fortune selling opioids, and the Bertarellis of Switzerland.
Healthcare spending in China surged to 5.9 trillion yuan (S$1.2 trillion) last year from 3.5 trillion yuan in 2014, and is projected to top 9.4 trillion yuan in 2023, Hansoh said in a prospectus for its public offering.
Mr Cen Junda, a long-time investor of the Lianyungang, Jiangsu-based company, is also a billionaire with a stake valued at about US$1.7 billion.
The IPO will make Ms Zhong China's third-richest woman, after two real estate moguls: Country Garden Holdings' co-chairman Yang Huiyan, and Longfor Group Holdings' chairman Wu Yajun, who are worth US$21.4 billion and US$10 billion, respectively.
Profit of S$375 million reported by Hansoh Pharmaceutical Group last year, an 18 per cent increase from a year earlier, the prospectus shows.
Ms Zhong graduated with an undergraduate degree in chemistry from Jiangsu Normal University in July 1982, and taught chemistry at Yan'an middle school in Lianyungang in the early 1990s, according to the website of All-China Women's Foundation.
She founded Hansoh in 1995.
The company, which researches and produces drugs for six major therapeutic areas, reported 1.9 billion yuan in profit last year, an 18 per cent increase from a year earlier, the prospectus shows. The drugmaker gets almost half of its revenue from cancer treatments.
"We believe its R&D will focus on making generics as soon as possible to take the first-mover advantage, a strategy many leading pharma companies applied in the past," said ICBC International Research's analyst Zhang Jialin, who is based in Hong Kong.
Hansoh yesterday said the retail portion of the offering was 12 times covered. Hengrui's earlier success also may help bolster investor confidence in Hansoh.
"The synergies between Hengrui and Hansoh, particularly in R&D and distribution, will bring the latter advantages over industry competitors," said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Mia He.