Leading lab suppliers merge

Analytical instrument firm Thermo Electron and chemical manufacturer Fisher Scientific have agreed a merger deal, aiming to become ’the leading provider of laboratory products and services in the high-growth life, laboratory and health sciences industry’. 

Thermo, the smaller of the two US companies, will acquire Fisher, for $10.6 billion (£5.7 billion), valuing Fisher at $78.90 per share. Fisher shareholders will get two Thermo shares for each Fisher share they own. The final split of stock will be 61 per cent held by Fisher shareholders and 39 per cent held by Thermo shareholders.

The new company, Thermo Fisher Scientific, will hope to make savings of up to $200 million (£105 million) in ’synergies’. These are expected to come from ’manufacturing rationalisation, sourcing and logistics efficiencies, and shared administrative functions’ as well as breaking into new markets.

Thermo’s president and chief executive officer Marijn Dekkers will become president and chief executive officer of the combined company. Paul Montrone, Fisher’s chairman and CEO, will leave the company, retaining an advisory role. ’This combination brings together two well-respected industry leaders in the life, laboratory and health sciences marketplace to create a company that has the product breadth, global reach and operational expertise to drive significant value for shareholders, customers and employees,’ said Dekkers. 

The combined company will have 30 000 employees and an international sales force of 7500. Predictions for 2007 include annual revenues of around $9 billion (£4.8 billion). The combination of the Thermo and Fisher will make the new company ’uniquely positioned to provide integrated, end-to-end technical solutions’, a Thermo statement said. 

Displays spin out

Philips Research and New Venture Partners have created their first spin-out company, Liquavista, to commercialise electrowetting displays and develop technologies for the mobile display market. 

Liquavista will be based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. ’This technology offers bright vivid colours, video speed, exceptional viewability even in bright sunlight, and substantial power savings compared with existing technologies,’ a company statement said.

Mark Gostick from UK-based Cambridge Display Technologies is Liquavista’s new CEO. Applications of electrowetting technology include MP3 players, watches, cameras, mobile phones, and DVD players. 

Probiotic partners wanted

Researchers at the Berlin University of Technology are looking for investors to help them develop a century-old spray drying technology to make better products for the food and pharmaceutical industries.

Spray-dry technology uses heated air to drive moisture quickly from flavour components, and can be used in any application where products are sensitive to temperature. 

This includes nearly all milk-derived products and all products where retaining the food’s original properties is important. It could be extended to living probiotic bacteria, the researchers claim.

They are now looking for investors and partnerships from industry to examine the technique for conserving lactic acid bacteria, the most commonly used microbe in probiotic foods and supplements. 

BASF expands and contracts

German chemicals company BASF and Russian gas giant Gazprom have signed an asset-swapping agreement that will see their existing collaboration extended. 

In the deal Gazprom has increased its interest in WINGAS, a joint venture between Gazprom and BASF subsidiary Wintershall, to 50 percent less one share. BASF will be able to explore and produce natural gas in Siberia, and Gazprom have acquired BASF’s expertise in marketing. The agreement was signed in the presence of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin and Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel.

The news comes directly after surface and materials science company Engelhard rejected BASF’s proposed merger deal of $38 (£20) per share.

Subsequently, Engelhard have announced a recapitalisation plan, which includes a self-tender with shareholders getting $45 (£24) per share, for up to 26 million shares. 

Tank overflow caused fire

The UK’s Buncefield oil depot fire was caused by an overfilled tank, according to an investigation. 

A storage tank at the depot was overflowing for more than 40 minutes before the explosion that injured 43 people, the Health and Safety Executive report said. Fuel was pumped into the tanks for 11 hours and the full tank went unnoticed and mechanical safeguards failed. The HSE report said that human error and mechanical failures were to blame. 

Chris Hunt, of the UK Petroleum Industry Association, apologised on behalf of the industry as a whole for the incident.

The industry was sorry for ’all of the disruption that the incident caused to the community, both in terms of damage to homes and businesses, and to the environment,’ Hunt said. 

Tamiflu ingredient supplier sold

Private equity firm Towerbrook Capital Partners has bought Clariant’s Pharmaceutical Fine Chemicals business for approximately €70 million (£48 million). Clariant Pharmaceutical Fine Chemicals recently supplied Roche with materials to make flu vaccine Tamiflu. Towerbrook also holds PolymerLatex, a synthetic latex producer in Germany. 

Array licence

Belgian life-science company Eurogentec has signed an agreement with UK-based Oxford Gene Technology (OGT) to acquire a licence for OGT’s Southern array patents, which cover the manufacture, use and marketing of oligonucleotide microarrays. 

The licence will remain valid for the patents’ lifetime. Eurogentec aim to strengthen its position in the custom-made oligo-based microarrays market and hope this deal will go some way to doing that.

’The agreement is very important for our genomic oligo business,’ said Jean-Pierre Delwart, Eurogentec CEO. 

AstraZeneca buys into biology

One of Europe’s largest drug companies, AstraZeneca (AZ) is set to pay £702 million for UK biotech firm Cambridge Antibody Technology (CAT), which represents a 67 per cent premium to CAT’s closing price days before the announcement.

AZ has been a major CAT shareholder since 2004, when it paid £75m for 19.2 per cent of the company. CAT makes Humira, an anti-arthritis drug. 

The deal will see CAT chief executive Peter Chambre leaving the company. Since the deal AZ have come under criticism for paying such a high price for CAT. 

The acquisition marks a continuing trend by the drugs giant to increase their biological capability. In December last year, AZ paid £121 million in cash for UK biotech company Kudos Pharmaceuticals. Also in December, AZ signed a licensing and research collaboration agreement with US-based Targacept to develop Targacept’s phase II compound, TC-1734, to treat Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive deficits in schizophrenia and other cognitive disorders.