Danaher Continues M&A Streak, Buying Life Sciences Firm Abcam for $5.7B

Danaher Continues M&A Streak, Buying Life Sciences Firm Abcam for .7B
Danaher Continues M&A Streak, Buying Life Sciences Firm Abcam for .7B

Danaher’s wide-ranging offerings for the life sciences sector will get broader and deeper with the $5.7 billion acquisition of Abcam, a company that makes reagents and tools used in scientific research, drug discovery, and diagnostics.

According to deal terms announced Monday, Washington, D.C.-based Danaher agreed to pay $24 cash for each Abcam share, which is a modest 2.7% premium to that company’s $23.36 closing stock price on Friday. However, shares had already spiked sharply in June after Abcam announced it would pursue a strategy to increase shareholder value as it fended off attempts by company’s founder and former CEO to wrest control of the business. Abcam also said in June it would explore strategic alternatives, including the potential sale of the company. Abcam said Monday that its process engaged with more than 30 entities, a list that narrowed to 20 potential acquirers before leading to the Danaher acquisition agreement.

Abcam, based in Cambridge, United Kingdom, was founded in 1998 by entrepreneur and investor Jonathan Milner, who was the firm’s first CEO. The vast majority of the company’s revenue comes from supplying research use only tools for proteomics, the study of proteins. Customers include academic labs as well as pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Abcam also generates revenue by developing antibodies and outlicensing them to biopharma and diagnostics companies. Abcam reported £361.7 million in 2022 revenue (about $455.7 million), a 14.6% increase over revenue in 2021. More than 41% of its sales come from the Americas. The company reported a £15.6 million loss in 2022.

Milner, who retains a 6.3% ownership stake in Abcam, left the company’s board of directors in 2020. But earlier this year, Milner sent a letter to Abcam shareholders describing the company as underperforming since his departure. He added that he planned to seek shareholder support to become executive chairman, replacing board chairman Peter Allen. Following Abcam’s June announcement that its strategic alternatives process had generated M&A interest, Milner suspended his effort to seek shareholder support to place him on the board.

Danaher serves a wide range of life sciences customers across four reportable business segments: biotechnology, life sciences, diagnostics, and environmental & applied solutions. Abcam is slated to join Danaher’s life sciences segment, which accounted for $17.5 billion of the company’s $31.4 billion in 2022 revenue. Abcam will operate as a standalone operating company within the life sciences segment.

Danaher has been an active acquirer. In 2022, the company spent about $637 million to acquire 10 businesses, according to its annual report. The prior year, Danaher spent about $11 billion in acquisitions, including the $9.6 billion purchase of Aldevron, a firm that manufactures plasmid DNA, messenger RNA, and proteins. Aldevron is also housed under life sciences, a segment that also includes Beckman Coulter, Leica Microsystems, and the former life sciences division of GE, which Danaher acquired in 2019 for $21.4 billion.

In a note sent to investors on Monday, William Blair analyst Matt Larew wrote that while Abcam fits well in the Danaher portfolio, the acquisition price is lower than expected compared to other acquisitions in the space. Abcam’s negotiating position was likely weakened by the activist campaign of Milner, which amounted to “planting a flashing neon for-sale sign in the front yard,” Larew said. He added that he does not expect another bidder to emerge for Abcam.

The Abcam acquisition still needs approval from that company’s shareholders as well as certain regulatory approvals. The companies expect to complete the transaction in mid-2024.

“We couldn’t be more excited to have Abcam join Danaher,” CEO Rainer Blair said in a prepared statement. “Abcam’s long track record of innovation, outstanding product quality and breadth of antibody portfolio positions them as a key partner for the scientific community.”

Photo: oatawa, Getty Images

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