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Instrument Maker Bruker To Exit Ailing Businesses

Business Setback: Firm seeks buyer for money-losing operations and ends sales of stand-alone gas chromatography systems

by Marc S. Reisch
July 31, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 31

Credit: Bruker Corp.
Bruker launched the Aurora Elite inductively coupled plasma/mass spectrometer in 2013. The ICP/MS business is now for sale.
Bruker’s Aurora Elite inductively-coupled plasma/mass spectrometer.
Credit: Bruker Corp.
Bruker launched the Aurora Elite inductively coupled plasma/mass spectrometer in 2013. The ICP/MS business is now for sale.

Citing “significant losses,” scientific instrument maker Bruker Corp. says it will stop selling some instrument lines and divest others, including its inductively coupled plasma/mass spectrometry (ICP/MS) business. The product lines, bought from Agilent Technologies four years ago, are used in food, energy, and environmental testing.

Bruker will immediately stop selling stand-alone gas chromatography systems and GC/single-quadrupole MS systems. The firm also says it is seeking a buyer for its ICP/MS business and for its GC service business. Together, the businesses have annual sales of about $60 million and employ about 225 people.

Chromatography businesses unaffected by the actions are Bruker’s EVOQ liquid chromatography/MS and Scion GC/triple-quadrupole MS product lines. The firm has historically been strong in magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy instruments.

Most of the businesses being shed formerly belonged to instrument maker Varian. Agilent sold them to Bruker for $38 million in 2010 after acquiring Varian. To satisfy antitrust authorities, Agilent divested overlapping product lines with less than $100 million in annual sales.

Prior to the acquisition, Bruker had little experience in the GC market, according to Stefan Fritsch, editor of Instrument News, making him question how successful the company could be in it. “They sailed into uncharted water, and they sunk,” he says.

Indeed, although Bruker invested heavily in the former Varian lines, its Chemical & Applied Markets division, of which they are a part, lost more than $20 million in each of the past two years, a company spokesman says. Bruker suffered from high operating costs and a lack of scale enjoyed by other players in these markets, he adds. Bruker will take up to $40 million in charges against earnings to account for the cost of exiting the businesses.

Bruker hopes to complete the sale of the service business to a “major analytical systems company” before the end of the year. The ICP/MS business is likely to go to “a global, high-quality analytical instruments company with a broader trace elemental analysis portfolio in the next few months,” according to Bruker.



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