Moderna says looking for opportunities in China after registering legal entity

FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows Moderna logo

BEIJING (Reuters) -Vaccine maker Moderna Inc said on Friday it was looking for opportunities in China after confirming that it had registered a legal entity in the world's second largest economy.

The U.S. biotech firm registered a unit called Moderna (China) Biotech Ltd in Shanghai on May. 24 with capital of $100 million, according to Chinese data providers including company database Qichacha.

"We are exploring opportunities to engage in the market and bring the power of Moderna's mRNA platform to the people of China," a company spokesperson said in response to a query from Reuters.

Moderna's shares rose 2.1% to $129.06 in U.S. premarket trading.

The company prior to this had no presence in mainland China. It opened an office in Hong Kong last year as part of an Asia expansion.

Its establishment of a mainland China unit comes as its revenue growth slows sharply due to waning global demand for its COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. company's only approved product.

Moderna in February forecast a possible net loss for 2023, calling it a transition year before it starts to see sales from experimental vaccines for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and flu.

Those vaccines, based on the same mRNA platform as its COVID shot, have yet to be filed for regulatory approval decisions.

Moderna has said that it was keen to sell its mRNA vaccine to China but the company and its foreign peers have so far been kept out as Beijing has insisted on using only Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines for its population.

CEO Stephane Bancel visited Shanghai last month during which he said Moderna will accelerate its investment in Shanghai and work with Chinese partners on local research and development, according to local media Yicai Global.

(Reporting by Beijing newsroom and Brenda Goh; Additional reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Jason Neely, Philippa Fletcher and Shounak Dasgupta)