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BGI Refutes Illumina Claims in Letter to Complete Genomics

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A BGI-Shenzhen official has sent a letter to Complete Genomics CEO Cliff Reid refuting claims made by Illumina last week that were intended to cast doubt on BGI's ability to obtain regulatory clearance for their proposed merger and steer Complete Genomics toward a deal with Illumina instead.

BGI already has an agreement in place to acquire Complete Genomics for $3.15 per share, but it has yet to receive US antitrust clearance.

Illumina has since then launched a competing unsolicited offer of $3.30 per share to acquire Complete Genomics, which rebuffed the offer. Last week Illumina stepped up its efforts as President and CEO Jay Flatley sent a letter to Complete Genomics' board spelling out the reasons why Illumina believes its bid is superior and would receive regulatory approval.

Among the issues raised by Flatley was the potential concern that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States may have regarding Complete Genomics being acquired by a foreign state-owned entity.

BGI countered in its letter, which was disclosed in a regulatory filing by Complete Genomics today, that this suggestion is untrue and that it is a privately held company, not a state-owned entity. It also stated its belief that the deal raises no national security issues, as had been suggested by Illumina, and pointed to Illumina's own business dealings with BGI.

"Illumina has been quite willing to sell instruments to BGI and supply consumables to enable BGI, through BGI Americas, to supply genome sequencing services in the United States," said BGI COO Ye Yin in the letter. "Only now, when BGI proposes simply to broaden its sequencing platform offerings, does Illumina claim that BGI's supply of services in the United States raises any regulatory concerns.

"Such obvious hypocrisy demonstrates that Illumina's assertions are inherently unbelievable and simply emphasizes the critical competition issues that actually exist: Illumina is trying to eliminate its closest competitor, Complete," said Yin.

In addition, Yin said BGI doesn't believe the US Federal Trade Commission would approve an Illumina purchase of Complete Genomics, which "would substantially threaten and lessen competition."

Illumina's proposal to buy Complete Genomics is "a thinly veiled attempt by Illumina to disrupt and interfere with our merger agreement in order to prevent Complete's technology from posing a competitive threat to Illumina's market dominance," said BGI.

It also raised concerns that Illumina's proposal includes a one-year "drop dead date," which if the deal fails to receive US antitrust clearance could effectively lead to a decline in Complete Genomics' business and potential bankruptcy for Complete Genomics.

"Such proposed terms are clearly calculated to achieve Illumina's desired objective — the elimination of Complete as a competitor," BGI said.