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The Alternative Stock Exchange Market (MAB) is essential for financing biotechnology in Spain, but its potential can only be fully exploited if appropriate fiscal measures are taken to attract investors. That was the conclusion reached by a group of experts at a roundtable discussion entitled Alternative Equity Market for Growth Companies, held yesterday, on the second day of the Biospain 2010 tradeshow. The discussion was one of various activities organized by Biocat as part of Biospain 2010.

The MAB, characterized by more flexible regulations than the traditional Spanish stock market, is targeted at small-cap companies, making it especially attractive to biotech companies looking for financing. “MAB’s legal and fiscal regulations make it a particularly interesting financing route for companies receiving venture capital: since it is an unregulated market, venture capital investors can still enjoy these tax benefits without having to sell their share in the company before the three-year period ends”, underscored Ignasi Costas, partner at the firm RCD, frequent Biocat collaborator, and specialist in biotech financing, yesterday at the discussion.

However, the MAB’s major challenge now is attracting investors. According to the experts, fiscal incentives are needed. Costas affirmed that in addition to measures like those taken in the autonomous communities of Catalonia and Madrid (20% IRPF tax rate and a maximum withholding of €10,000, provided that the investment lasts for at least two years), other measures are needed, such as those proposed by CataloniaBIO and Biocat. Among these, he highlighted tax breaks and even exemptions on dividends and capital gains; exemption on the company operations tax—namely, on capital increases that occur before a company is traded on the MAB; and deduction of capital losses against sources of income other than increases in equity.

Jesús González Nieto-Márquez, vice president and managing director of the MAB, also reaffirmed that investors should be given additional tax breaks (only Galicia and Valencia have announced deductions packages similar to those in Catalonia and Madrid, but they have not yet put these into effect) and that companies aiming to trade on the MAB should be given assistance (plans for this have been proposed by the Spanish Ministry of Industry and by the autonomous communities of Madrid, Galicia and Murcia).

The roundtable, moderated by Josep M. Echarri, COO of Inveready Seed Capital, also included Barbara Lunghi, a representative of AIM, the London Stock Exchange’s market for growing companies, an alternative British stock market on which more than 1,200 companies are traded; Fernando González, official advisor at the MAB, whose job is to help companies with the process of entering on to the market; Miguel Ángel Bonachera, CEO of the Catalan company AB-Biotics, which has traded on the MAB since June of this year; and Javier Velasco, COO of Neuron BPH, the second Spanish biotech company that began trading on MAB this year.

As part of Biospain 2010 and the BIOTEC 2010 scientific conference, Biocat also helped organize a roundtable on nanotechnology.

Spanish bioregions are collaborating more closely

Biospain 2010 also included a meeting of the Red de Biorregiones Españolas (Network of Spanish Bioregions), aimed at fostering collaborations among the various bioclusters from Spain’s autonomous communities. In addition to Biocat’s delegates, the meeting also featured representatives from Andalucía BioRegión (Andalusia), Bioaratec (Aragon), BioBal (the Balearic Islands), BioBasque (the Basque Country), Bioval (Valencia) and BioGalicia (an economic development agency of the Galician government that is currently assembling a biocluster).

The delegates agreed to launch a program for the bioclusters to share experiences and information, to identify common interests, and to detect and resolve problems.

“Despite the great diversity in the characteristics and level of development among the different bioregions, they all face common challenges and have common needs that are sector specific; if we can speak with one voice, we will be much stronger at delivering solutions for this sector to the institutions that demand responses,” affirmed Manel Balcells, president of the Executive Committee of Biocat, during the meeting.



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