South Pacific acquisition

Thermo Fisher Scientific pens $120M deal to acquire Biolab, a life science tools provider in New Zealand and Australia

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WALTHAM, Mass.—Bearing out speculation by Leerink Swann & Co. analyst Isaac Ro less than two weeks earlier that a major acquisition was probably in the works soon for Thermo Fisher Scientific, the company on April 27 announced it had entered into an agreement to acquire Biolab, the leading provider of analytical instruments, life science consumables and laboratory equipment for scientific, environmental and healthcare markets in Australia and New Zealand, for approximately $120 million.

Biolab, which was founded nearly 150 years ago, has what has been described as possessing a "market-leading product portfolio, unparalleled service offering, as well as its customer-focused technical sales capability." The company was sporting annual revenues of $120 million at the time the deal was struck, and the intention is to integrate it into Thermo Fisher's Laboratory Products and Services segment.

"As the premier commercial channel in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, Biolab offers a broad portfolio of products and services to support Thermo Fisher's continued growth in the region," says Marijn E. Dekkers, president and CEO of Thermo Fisher Scientific. "This acquisition significantly strengthens our presence in these markets, and will enable us to better serve customers in both public and private sectors through an expanded range of offerings."

Biolab had been a division of publicly traded Australian firm Alesco Corp., and distributes products in such areas as chromatography, molecular spectroscopy, molecular imaging and proteomic and genomic analysis. Among its other offerings, it also sells diagnostic kits and sample preparation products.

In his research report on life science tools companies that came out shortly before the acquisition was announced, Isaac Ro predicted that a major acquisition by Thermo was "likely in the near term, with possible targets coming in the areas of bioprocess tools, HPLC or diagnostics."

That speculation wasn't limited to Ro's own mind, as he also pointed out that other people's hunches about an upcoming acquisition had been causing Thermo's shares to lag in the public markets recently. But Ro also said that given Thermo's broad distribution channel, the company could choose any of the areas he had mentioned "and recognize material benefits."

Some had been speculating that Thermo's target for acquisition was Waters Corp. Ro didn't dismiss that possibility, though he did write that it was not an ideal acquisition target for Thermo's needs.

Just a few days before the announcement of the acquisition deal, Thermo released its first quarter financial report, noting that revenues were down in both its analytical technologies segment and its laboratory products and services segment, both of which Biolab could possibly bolster.

Revenues in the analytical technologies segment declined 14 percent in the first quarter of 2009 to $939 million, compared with 2008 revenues of $1.09 billion. In the laboratory products and services segment, revenues declined 9 percent in the first quarter of 2009 to $1.42 billion, compared with 2008 revenues of $1.57 billion.

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