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Were Amersham s (Comparatively) Tiny Revenues Ever a Turn-Off?

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When GE announced its plan to acquire Amersham last October, conventional wisdom in the pharmacogenomics space suggested that Amersham’s larger Health division was the obvious target, and that the decidedly smaller Biosciences unit would be left either to fend for itself or be sold for petty cash.

Indeed, describing its plan to buy Amersham, GE made clear that a main objective was to get its hands on the company’s imaging chemistries, which GE would market with its armada of imaging instruments. Notably less clear was what GE would to do with the core assets overseen by Amersham’s Biosciences arm — gene-sequencing, gene-expression, protein-separation technologies, as well as a host of bioassays.

As many industry insiders saw it, there may not have been room at GE for Amersham Biosciences. GE grew into its size by acquiring companies in stable, staid industries. Today, the conglomerate, which generated more than $33 billion in 2003, reaches into more than a dozen diverse markets, including aircraft engines, commercial finance, insurance, medical systems, and network television. Amersham occupied a much smaller — albeit faster-growing and more risky — space: Amersham Biosciences, with 4,650 employees, posted $1.2 billion in receipts in 2003; Amersham Health, with 5,300 staffers, recorded $1.8 billion in sales. Revenue at both units grew 7 percent year over year.

Broken into their component parts, Amersham Biosciences’ revenues have led some analysts to express doubt that holding onto the division will be worthwhile for GE: The unit’s discovery systems arm, which oversaw Amersham’s CodeLink and Lucidea gene chips; the MegaBACE gene sequencer and TempliPhi DNA preparation kits; protein analysis technologies; and drug screening and informatics, accounted for $706 million in revenue last year. Amersham Biosciences’ other wing, protein separation, generated $542.4 million.

—KL

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