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Eurofins Makes Friendly Bid to Acquire GeneScan, a Microarray Analysis Provider

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Eurofins, a Nantes, France-based bioanalytical services provider, last week made a friendly takeover bid for rival GeneScan Europe of Freiburg, Germany.

Citing rules on mergers and acquisitions, the company declined comment on particulars of the deal. However, it has issued a press release for Europe, obtained by BioArray News, that details a potential transaction valued at $8.7 million.

The takeover bid also points to a widening of the marketplace for microarray analysis.

Eurofins provides bioanalytical testing services for the pharmaceutical, food, and environmental industries. The company has 2,000 employees and 50 labs scattered across Europe and the US, including labs in Tennessee, Iowa, Ohio, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina and California. It currently offers no microarray analysis services, a company spokesman said.

GeneScan, with annual sales of $12 million, is based around a microarray technology it describes as “biochipnology” — PCR products, cDNA, and oligonucleotide microarrays, printed to low- to-medium densities, custom and standard — targeting the agriculture and food industries. To spot its chips, the company uses a TopSpot non-contact arraying process from HSG-IMIT, a non-profit institute in Villingen-Schwenningen Germany.

The company has laboratories in Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, Brazil, and a US lab in Louisiana.

Eurofins produces the NutriChip for food analysis of pathogens like Salmonella, Listeria, and Campylobacter; and the GMOChip for the detection of genetically modified organisms.

GeneScan was created in 1996 by Ulrich Birsner, formerly with the Max Planck Institute for immunobiology and the founder of Max Planck spinoff Birsner & Grob Biotech. GeneScan went public in 2000 and has served as a consolidator of a network of smaller labs in Germany and around the globe.

Wolfgang Senne, formerly CFO and executive vice president for Carl Zeiss, is GeneScan CEO and, since January, sole member of the management board of the company.

Eurofins, in its release, said it had signed a friendly offer agreement with GeneScan, offering €1.10 a share, at a premium of 50 percent over the closing price on Feb. 14 on the Frankfurt exchange. The company has also signed agreements with GeneScan shareholders to purchase 27 percent of the outstanding stock.

GeneScan, unable to obtain funding, at the same time announced a corporate restructuring, in which it focused on its GMO and chip-based analysis and set a sales target of €13 million as well as a goal of pre-tax breakeven in the fiscal year 2003. As part of that restructuring, the company laid off 80 employees, leaving 135 employees. The company estimated restructuring costs of €24 million. As part of the restructuring, Birsner exited the management board.

— MOK

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