When a tech conglomerate looked at Chatsworth medical testing company Iris International Inc., it liked what it saw – enough to pay a 45 percent premium to buy it.
The stock price for Iris, which is best known for automated urinalysis testing systems, jumped immediately after Danaher Corp. in Washington, D.C., said last week that it would buy the Chatsworth company for $19.50 per share, or about $341 million, in the fourth quarter.
The acquisition offer drove the stock to a 52-week high and the company was one of the biggest gainers on the LABJ Stock Index last week when it closed up almost 54 percent at $19.47 on Sept. 19. (See page 48.)
The acquisition comes as Iris has become increasingly profitable, with the promise of new revenue from technologies in the works. In the second quarter ended June 30, the company reported revenue of $30.9 million, a 2.5 percent increase compared with the same quarter the year before.
Iris has said that it plans to launch a testing technology that the company refers to as 3Gems, or third-generation morphology system, which is designed to quickly analyze blood or urine samples in medical laboratories. The urinalysis and hematology systems are scheduled to launch in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
The company did not return phone calls for this article.
Ben Haynor, an analyst at Feltl & Co. in Minneapolis, said that he wasn’t expecting the Danaher deal, but he knew Iris was a possible acquisition target.
“They’re a smaller player in the diagnostics equipment space, so typically that’s just what happens with these things,” he said. “They have some interesting technology that would be attractive to an acquirer.”
Raymond Myers, an analyst who covers Iris for Benchmark Co. LLC in Fort Washington, Pa., said Danaher’s proposed price for Iris is fair, but that the acquisition takes the fun out of waiting for the company’s imminent success.
“I think that it is a bit unfortunate that shareholders didn’t have an opportunity to realize the value of the 3Gems platform, to see how that would play out,” he said. “But I think it also speaks to the attractiveness of many small profitable health care businesses today.”
Myers said the acquisition is evidence of a shift in the financial strategies of large health care companies. Instead of investing in promising but unproven technology to grow earnings per share organically, they’re increasingly buying businesses that are already profitable and that boost earnings per share almost immediately.
For example, San Francisco private-equity giant Genstar Capital bought Philadelphia medical data company eResearchTechnology Inc. this summer in a similar deal.
“The old model was that large companies would acquire research technologies and invest in them,” Myers said. “What we’re seeing more of now is large companies are deploying cash to buy turnkey businesses, not necessarily for the purpose of investing in them, though they may certainly do that, but because they can be accretive rather quickly.”
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