Business Day (Johannesburg)

South Africa: BioMérieux Buys OmniMed Diagnostics Arm

Cape Town — Diagnostics firm bioMérieux, a division of French healthcare company Mérieux Alliance, has acquired the diagnostics distribution subsidiary of Johannesburg-based OmniMed for an undisclosed sum.

BioMerieux is the world's eighth-largest clinical diagnostics firm by revenue, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan. It makes laboratory tests for infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis and human papillomavirus, as well as detection kits for lethal "superbugs" that are resistant to antibiotics.

The company generated $1,2bn in revenue from clinical diagnostics in 2006, trailing behind the world's biggest diagnostics firm, Roche, which made $6,3bn in sales during the comparable period.

South African healthcare company OmniMed's clinical diagnostics division has held exclusive distribution rights for bioMérieux's products in SA for the past six years. It has two other divisions, focusing on the distribution of medical devices and pharmaceutical products.

"We have had a successful partnership with OmniMed and the logical next step was to have direct involvement in SA," bioMérieux's director for the Middle East and Africa, Christo Viljoen, said yesterday.

"BioMérieux has been around since 1897. We want to apply the experience we have to SA, with a fully owned subsidiary."

Mérieux Alliance is a family holding consisting of bioMérieux, Silliker, India-based Shantha Biotechnics Transgene and Advanced BioScience Laboratories.

It is listed on the pan-European stock exchange Euronext, but only a third of its shares are publicly traded.

Viljoen said bioMérieux was in talks to bring black shareholders into the newly acquired subsidiary. The company intended to support corporate social investment programmes in SA and invest in local research and development, he said.

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