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Business

Cautious Outlook For Instruments

Pittcon: Scientific toolmakers are wary about the year ahead

by Marc S. Reisch
March 19, 2012 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 90, ISSUE 12

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Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
As of March 13 (day three of five), 15,137 visitors had attended Pittcon in Orlando.
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Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
As of March 13 (day three of five), 15,137 visitors had attended Pittcon in Orlando.

Executives at the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry & Applied Spectroscopy (Pittcon), held in Orlando last week, said they are taking a cautious approach to 2012 after improvements in sales and profits in 2011.

Thermo Fisher Scientific CEO Marc N. Casper pointed to “world economic uncertainty” that could restrain U.S. and European government budgets and affect 2012 sales to academic customers. To help customers deal with tighter budgets, Thermo introduced the Unity Lab laboratory management business, which services equipment from Thermo as well as its competitors. It will compete with PerkinElmer’s similar OneSource service.

Frank H. Laukien, CEO of Bruker Corp., was a little more upbeat about the global economy. However, he acknowledged that U.S. academic spending on instruments is likely to be slower this year than last because of government budget constraints.

Laukien said Bruker has already factored anemic academic spending into its revenue growth projections of 7 to 10% for 2012. Demand from Northern Europe will be strong, he said. Excluding the impact of acquisitions and exchange rates, Bruker’s sales rose 9% last year to $1.7 billion.

Waters Corp. used Pittcon as an opportunity to introduce the Acquity UPC2, an easy-to-use separation instrument that company executives said would take supercritical fluid chromatography from a $70 million-a-year boutique business to a $700 million industry. Peter Lawson, an analyst at Mizuho Securities USA, wrote in a report from the conference that the UPC2 could be “the best in show” product.

Several firms continued the trend of offering smaller, lighter instruments, with one firm, Thermo, going so far as to characterize its new palm-sized NanoDrop Lite spectrophotometer as a “personal” tool.

Other firms shrinking the size of instruments included Advion, whose Expression single-quadrupole mass spectrometer is designed to operate under fume hoods. Oxford Instruments and partner Active Spectrum brought out a benchtop 40-lb electron magnetic resonance device with many of the capabilities of the 2-ton instrument it can replace.

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