PARIS French diagnostics specialist BioMerieux (BIOX.PA) will look at the microbiology unit Siemens (SIEGn.DE) is considering selling, BioMerieux's Chief Executive told Reuters.
Sources have told Reuters Siemens may sell the business, which makes tools to detect bacteria and test antibiotics and is part of its diagnostics division, and that bankers are pitching it to likely buyers at around $500 million.
"There is a dossier available and we will look at it closely," CEO Jean-Luc Belingard told Reuters in an interview.
We're not in an active phase, but we're going to make contacts, and we'll do our job, which is analysis," he said.
BioMerieux also makes tests to detect diseases and monitor the quality of food and water. It will "of course" look at the Siemens unit as part of its hunt for acquisitions, though it is not actively looking to buy at this stage, Jean-Luc Belingard said in an interview after the company published its annual results.
Asked about the price tag being floated by bankers and whether it might be too dear for BioMerieux, Belingard said the company had recently proved it was able to make acquisitions on such a scale with its $450 million acquisition of U.S. firm BioFire.
The microbiology unit is part of Siemens' larger diagnostics division, which generated 3.9 billion euros ($5.43 billion) in revenue and 350 million in profit last year.
Siemens declined to comment. Its new Chief Executive Joe Kaeser is set to announce a strategy revamp in May that may include portfolio changes.
NEW FRONTIER IN DNA SEQUENCING
BioMerieux is also looking to grow in DNA sequencing and may consider teaming with another company in this field in France or abroad, Belingard said. He would not give any names.
"The DNA structure of bacteria can show how aggressive and resistant they are," Belingard explained. "Breaking down this DNA can therefore be a tool to better assess risk in bacterial resistance or virulence."
Belingard also saw promising growth in industrial applications for its diagnostics business, whose clients include food and beverage companies such as Coca-Cola (KO.N), Nestle NESN.VX and Danone (DANO.PA), but also pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies.
The industrial business grew nearly 7 percent last year and accounted for over a fifth of group revenue. Its sales should continue to post "upper single-digit growth" in the coming years, he said.
"It's a market with huge potential. Everyday we learn that such and such product is contaminated," Belingard said, noting that many developing economies still had a long way to go in terms of quality control. "With emerging markets, the sky's the limit," he said.
(Additional reporting by Arno Schuetze and Soyoung Kim in New York; Editing by Andrew Callus)