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Business

Agilent To Exit NMR Business

Instrumentation: About 300 jobs will go as firm drops nuclear magnetic resonance operation

by Marc S. Reisch
October 16, 2014 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 92, ISSUE 42

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Credit: Dean Olson
An Agilent 800-MHz NMR magnet at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
09242-notw9-UIUMagnetcxd.jpg
Credit: Dean Olson
An Agilent 800-MHz NMR magnet at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Agilent Technologies is shutting down its struggling nuclear magnetic resonance instrumentation business and eliminating 300 jobs in Yarnton, England, and Santa Clara, Calif.

“This action is a step in ensuring that our investments are placed on high-value life sciences, applied markets, and diagnostics solutions,” says Mike McMullen, Agilent’s chief operating officer. The firm will immediately stop taking NMR system orders but will continue to fill orders in progress and will support existing systems.

Agilent unsuccessfully tried to shore up its NMR operation last year when it exited specialty magnets and magnetic resonance imaging.

The closure will reduce revenues by about $30 million in 2015, the firm says, but will boost operating profit by $10 million. To account for shutdown costs, Agilent plans to take a $72 million restructuring charge.

The NMR business, acquired as part of the purchase of Varian in 2010, made Agilent a major player in supplying the large instruments, which researchers use to determine molecular structure. The acquisition was one of the key reasons behind the $1.5 billion Varian purchase. The deal also brought with it imaging and vacuum technologies and a consumables portfolio.

With Agilent out of the picture, only two makers of large NMR systems for molecular analysis survive: Bruker and Jeol Resonance.

The sudden withdrawal has upset some in the NMR community. “Many of us thought Agilent had turned a corner,” says David Rovnyak, associate professor in Bucknell University’s chemistry department. “This comes as a shock. We are now worried about Agilent’s ability to service existing instruments when such deep cuts have been announced.”

Agilent is not alone in shutting down former Varian instrument businesses this year. Citing “significant losses,” Bruker said in July that it would shutter or divest stand-alone gas chromatography, GC/single-quadrupole mass spectrometry, and inductively coupled plasma/MS systems. Bruker bought most of them in 2010 from Agilent, which had to sell them to get antitrust authorities to clear the Varian purchase.

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Comments
Dr. Rich Bischel (April 16, 2015 10:02 AM)
The closure of the Varian/Agilent NMR business unit and subsequent divestiture of other Varian instruments has left the NMR/Spectrometry communities in a quandry. Most assuredly this will impact research groups that were depending on Agilent to provide continuing service and software upgrades for current "in use" equipment. We have submitted orders to Agilent to supply a large list of "spare parts" for our machines so that we can continue our work without fear of shut down due to the "no parts" scenario.

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