Struggling Carmat secures €7m lifeline
Future support from co-founder Airbus uncertain as it opts not to participate in capital raising
Paris — Artificial-heart maker Carmat on Monday secured a €7m lifeline to survive an imminent cash crunch, but the deal left questions over future support from co-founder Airbus after the plane maker opted not to participate.
The 30-year-old French medtech champion, set up by a heart surgeon and one of the plane maker’s own founders, in September warned its survival was at stake after problems with its supply chain and appealed to shareholders led by Airbus to reinvest.
On Monday, Carmat said the new €7m capital increase will cover its needs until the start of 2024. However, it estimates it will have to find about an extra €50m to run the business until the end of October 2024, plus €14.7m to cover the first tranche of a European Investment Bank loan due on January 31 2024.
“We are confident in the robustness and safety of our artificial heart and in its strong potential,” Carmat CEO Stephane Piat said in a statement.
Shares in the Paris-based company rose 11% to recover the €4 mark, before shedding most of their gains. They have fallen from €7.44 before the cash warning in September.
Shareholders Lohas, Sante Holdings and Therabel Invest took part in the short-term capital raising, the company said. But a chart issued by Carmat showed that Airbus did not put up new cash, at least for now, and its stake fell to 10.8% from 11.7%, making it the second-largest shareholder behind Lohas, the family office of French investor Pierre Bastid.
An Airbus spokesperson said it had “nothing to add for now” to Carmat’s statement.
President Emmanuel Macron has made health technology a key part of a flagship re-industrialisation road map for 2030, and the French venture is one of only a handful of companies developing alternatives to heart transplants.
Airbus inherited the stake from a chance co-operation between late French industrialist Jean-Luc Lagardere and French heart surgeon Alain Carpentier. Together they set up a venture in 1993 backed by Lagardere’s Matra Defense unit, now part of Airbus, to pursue Carpentier’s vision of a viable alternative to scarce heart transplants.
Carmat says its devices — whose mechanisms were designed with the expertise of French missile engineers employed by Lagardere — are the only ones of their kind approved in Europe. It estimates it needs another three years to submit a formal application for approval in the US.
In September Piat told Reuters the participation of existing shareholders, including Airbus, in any fundraising would send an important signal.
Airbus, which is in the midst of a reorganisation focused on making planes, has supported Carmat with €50m since it was created but has expressed little appetite to invest significant new sums, people familiar with the discussions said.
Carmat confirmed on Monday it expects European sales to rise to between €4m and €6m in the second half of 2023, and to increase sharply in 2024. It stuck to its forecast for production capacity of 500 hearts a year, compared with 60-70 devices made in 2023. The company has run into problems with its specialised supply chain in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It said it is working actively on other financing solutions and measures to extend its financial visibility.
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