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COMMENTARY

Roche might be in for a long battle…

After the board of director of Illumina rejected the unsolicited takeover offer from Roche on the 7th February, describing the bid as undervaluing Illumina’s “leadership position and future growth prospects”, Roche restated that it’s $5.7 billion price for Illumina was “full and fair and provides a unique opportunity for Illumina’s shareholders”. It might, however, be in for a long takeover battle, as Illumina can with some right claim that its 10-year history showed that the share slump it experienced in July last year – and which might well have precipitated Roche’s bid – was a temporary aberration.

Illumina’s annual filings, however, slightly delayed by the bid on the 25th January, indicate that while for the calendar year revenues increased by 17% to $1.06 billion, net income fell in the same period by 31% to $86.1 million.

And Roche is anything if not a determined bidder, if its takeovers of Genentech and Ventana are anything to go by. The latter acquisition in 2007/08 was a long drawn out affair, with Roche wrestling Ventana’s board into submission in almost nine months, and the management only ceding ground after a 20% rise on the initial bid. Such determination on Roche’s part, however, might let other potential interested parties think twice before throwing their hats – and money – into the ring.

Japan’s blight and the aftermath

With our thoughts going to the victims of the earthquake and Tsunami that hit a 400km stretch of coastline just North of Tokyo on the 11th March, and our attentions being drawn to the continuing instability of the Fukushima nuclear plant, the potential wider implications for the world economy, and particularly the analytical instrument industry, are being considered.

Over the last two decades, Japan already had to cope with a stagnant economy, a deflationary currency and an aging population. Despite this, the county has held on to its position under the top three economies of the world, built during the miraculous years of its rise out of the ashes of World War II, and remained not only a leading manufacturer of complete analytical instruments, but also a leading supplier of optical parts, lasers systems and detectors for our industry.

With the Japan now challenged by energy insecurity, the spectre of a reducing industrial output and the impact on its economy and that of the wider world takes shape. How many analytical instrument companies will be affected by shortages in vital components? Can other economies step into the fold? And if Japan looses some of its markets in the short term, will it necessarily regain them after the first difficulties have been overcome?

Editors’ Awards end in a tie for first place

Two privately-owned firms shared the top honors at this year’s Pittcon Editor’s Awards, while a small English firm making its first appearance at the show took a trophy under the noses of many much larger and more established firms.

A panel of attending industry journalists asked to select the most interesting and novel products making their debut at the exhibition selected two products for the Gold award out of 26 nominations. Receiving the same number of votes were the Citius LCMS from Leco Corp and the TrueSurface Microscopy Raman microscope from WITec GmbH. Targeting the metabolomics market, the Citius LCMS was described by one juror as an MS instrument having “probably the highest resolving power and best acquisition rate” of any system on the market, with comparable sensitivity to competing systems. The innovative WITec instrument makes rough material surfaces available for accurate Raman measurements. The system topographically maps the surface, so that the Raman spectrometer can be focused precisely.

The Silver award went to the Samplicity from EMD Millipore. The product uses a semi-automated approach to filter samples of various viscosities. The jury found that the equipment made a tedious and laborious everyday sample preparation procedure easier, freeing scientists to concentrate on their real work. Finally, the AstraGene UV spectrometer for the non-destructive measurement of DNA, RNA and protein samples from the Cambridge-based AstraNet Systems Ltd won the Bronze award. Here the pipette tip acts as the sample vial, so that no precious sample gets lost.

Other nomination were: the Micro ESR, Active Spectrum; MINI FLASH TOUCH, Ametek (Grabener); the Assure NMR software and the MAXIS 4G MS, Bruker; GC-Tof MS, DANI Instruments; CALIDUS micro GC, Falcon; Mini GC, Forston Labs; EGA/PY 3030D, Frontier Lab; Aqualog Absorbance/Fluorescent spectrometer, HORIBA; NanoPhotometer Pearl, Implen; Spiral Tof-Tof and InTouch Scope SEM, JEOL; Excellence Flash DSC 1, Mettler Toledo; 889IC Sample Center, Metrohm; Centrifan PE, Modular SFC: Perfinity Workstation, Perfinity/Shimadzu; Epsilon 3 EDXRF, PANalytical; LCMS 8030, Shimadzu; Niton FXL XRF, Thermo Fisher Scientific; Unifi software integration package, ACQUITY UPSFC and ACQUITY UPLC 2D Tech, Waters.

Quo vadis, Pittcon?

Welcome to the 62nd Pittcon in Atlanta, GA. Over the last three years, the regular Pittcon visitors had to see the odd missing name, notably from the circle of the leading companies.

There was Varian, who decided three years ago to quit coming to Pittcon and concentrate on its online marketing efforts. Bruker, followed by a number of European companies, reduced their booth presence to every alternate year, to make the stretched budget last longer and to accommodate Pittcon’s European counterpart, Analytica, an industry event on a two-yearly schedule.

The largest company in our industry, Thermo Fisher Scientific, told Instrument News in 2009 that it would concentrate on Northern industrial cities and scale its booth size accordingly. This year, it is PerkinElmer, who has stayed away.

What will next year’s list of cancellations look like, when in Europe Analytica and ACHEMA will be put on within a few weeks from each other? And while the 2011 Pittcon host city, Orlando, will in all probability do nothing to encourage attendance from exhibitors or visitor, will Philadelphia and Chicago be able to reverse this long-term trend?