Bruker BioSciences reported a 33 percent increase in life science mass spectrometry sales in the fourth quarter of 2003 as the company returned to profitability, and pledged to make further inroads into clinical and structural proteomics in 2004 during its quarterly earnings conference call this week.
The company posted total revenues of $73.7 million, up 18 percent from the combined revenues of $62.5 million for Bruker Daltonics and Bruker AXS in the fourth quarter of 2002. Daltonics and AXS merged to become Bruker BioSciences in July 2003.
“We believe we had the fastest growth of any major mass spec vendor in 2003 and we continue to gain market share,” Frank Laukien, Bruker’s president and CEO, said during the call. He pointed to inroads that the company made in the second half of 2003 in the biomarker discovery market, attributing this progress mostly to a perceived superiority in performance of its mass specs compared with those of competitors, and to the “robust automation and lower cost” of the magnetic bead front-end to ClinProt, the biomarker discovery system that Bruker unveiled last year at ASMS. Laukien said he expects ClinProt to be a “significant growth contributor” to the company in 2004.
Ciphergen, Bruker’s chief competitor in the biomarker discovery kit market, last month attributed lower-than-expected revenue growth in its fourth quarter partially to “direct competition from other mass spec companies claiming biomarker discovery capability” (see PM 2-20-04, 9-5-03).
Laukien also said there was strong growth for Bruker’s other offerings, including its ion trap — which it co-developed with Agilent and released at last year’s Pittcon — as well as its FT-MS, and its benchtop electrospray TOF. “We believe we may together [with Agilent] be at or very close to a co-market leader position in the LC ion trap mass spectrometry market,” Laukien said. He said also that the FT-MS market “in total has probably doubled in just one year,” and predicted strong growth for Bruker’s Apex-Q hybrid FT-MS in 2004.
Thermo Electron, which competes with Bruker in both the ion trap and FT-MS arenas, last weekend at ABRF unveiled a vacuum MALDI attachment to its LTQ linear ion trap, saying the MALDI ion trap combination would compete with the MALDI TOF/TOF market (see PM 2-27-04). Bruker said earlier this month that it will release an update to its autoflex MALDI TOF/TOF at Pittcon, which is being held in Chicago next week (see PM 2-20-04).
Bruker’s Q4 strength in mass spec sales — an area that represented 41 percent of its revenue in 2003 — was offset somewhat by continued weakness in X-ray crystallography systems, which grew at a rate of only 1 percent in 2003. However, the market improved somewhat in Q4 compared with the rest of the year, Laukien said, and Martin Haase, senior vice president for Bruker BioSciences, said that the X-ray crystallography market stood to grow substantially this year. In 2004, “I think 10 to 15 percent growth is realistic, and as we are developing more products, we think we can outperform that growth,” Haase said. Bruker AXS, the X-ray side of the business, is currently developing front- and back-end tools for the crystallography market, he said, and he predicted that there would be “further demand of our customers to get more complete solutions for their structural proteomics requirements.”
Laukien also continued to emphasize Bruker’s focus on combining its X-ray and mass spec-based offerings to offer a complete package — an integration effort he termed “unique” in the industry, and one the company has been pushing as a theme since its Daltonics and AXS divisions merged (see PM 9-26-03, 11-14-03).
In keeping with this theme, the company also announced this week that it will release a Proteomics Research Information Management System at Pittcon, which will combine and integrate data mass spec and X-ray crystallography data (see p. 2).
Overall, Bruker benefited mostly from an upswing in US sales in the second half, with resumed buying emerging from pharma and biotech, and increased funds coming in the form of medical and clinical research funding, due to the company’s entry into the clinical proteomics space, Laukien said.
For 2004, Bruker predicted Q1 net sales of $68 to $72 million and a goal of $290 million to $300 million in total 2004 revenue, with growth in Daltonics and AXS both in the low- to mid-teens.
In the fourth quarter of 2003, Bruker reported GAAP net income of $300,000, compared to a combined net loss of $4.9 million for Daltonics and AXS in the year-ago period.
Bruker spent $9.9 million on R&D during the fourth quarter of 2003, an 18 percent increase over its Q4 2002 R&D spending of $8.4 million.
The company had $76.8 million in cash and short-term investments on hand as of Dec. 31, 2003, compared with $99.6 million at the end of 2002.