GE strengthens healthcare with $718m Whatman buy

By Wai Lang Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Whatman, Profit

GE Healthcare has agreed to purchase UK laboratory equipment maker
Whatman for £363m ($718m) in a move aimed at advancing GE's life
sciences business.

The acquisition marks a welcome return to form for the US conglomerate after suffering a knock back in its pursuit to buy two Abbott Laboratories medical diagnostic businesses for $8bn last year. The group's healthcare division is a key area of growth for GE Healthcare, accounting for 14 per cent of its profits and its latest acquisition attempts to shore up its life sciences offerings, adding Whatman's know-how in filtration technologies and sample preparation. The acquisition also attempts to keep up the pace set by Siemens Diagnostics, which bought Diagnostic Products and Bayer's diagnostic equipment business last year. Under the terms of the acquisition, each Whatman shareholder will receive 270 pence in cash for each Whatman share, valuing Whatman at approximately £363m. GE revealed that the largest shareholder of Whatman - Hermes Focus Asset Management Ltd, with approximately 15 per cent of the outstanding shares of Whatman - has already agreed to vote in favour of the transaction. The deal is expected to be completed in the second quarter. GE also added in a conference call that Whatman CEO Kieran Murphy would stay as GE would run the company as a separate entity for the time being. "Whatman's product offerings are complementary with our life sciences business; we believe that combining the skills and knowledge of the two businesses will create added value for our customers​," said Joe Hogan, president and CEO of GE Healthcare. Murphy reiterated this, adding: "Whatman will benefit from the business process expertise within GE Healthcare. Whatman's product opportunities within the pharmaceutical, diagnostic and forensics markets will have a greater chance of success within the larger GE Healthcare group​." Whatman is a global supplier of filtration products and technologies, with a well-recognised brand, and a strong sector expertise. The firm is already strong in Europe and the US, but has struggled to make similar headway in the rest of the world. It will be hoping its deal with GE will ensure growth elsewhere, and particularly in emerging markets such as Asia-Pacific. GE's acquisition is the latest in a line of aggressive purchasing for the group, which posted $3bn in profit on $17bn in revenue, with the life sciences unit accounting for $2.3bn of the revenue total. Whatman generates annual revenue of about $230m, with an operating profit margin of 20 per cent. GE is also in the middle of, or has purchased the aerospace business of UK defence firm Smiths, and oil and gas fields' equipment maker Vetco Gray. Its attempted acquisition of some of Abbott Laboratories' divisions was called off in July last year because the two companies could not agree on final terms.

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