In its largest acquisition ever, the laboratory instrumentation maker Waters Corporation has agreed to purchase Wyatt Technology for $1.36 billion.
Wyatt makes analytical instruments based on light scattering as well as separation equipment that uses an effect called field-flow fractionation. It reported $110 million in 2022 sales and employs a little more than 200 people, primarily in Santa Barbara, California.
When the deal closes later this year, it will be a big change for the Wyatt family, which has owned and run the company since Philip Wyatt founded it in 1982. Philip’s son Clifford Wyatt is now president, and his son Geofrey is CEO.
The deal is also a tactical departure for Waters, which has historically emphasized internal R&D for growth. CEO Udit Batra, who took the helm at Waters in late 2020, told C&EN in 2021 that though organic growth would still be the firm’s top priority, he and his team were pursuing partnerships and evaluating thousands of possible acquisitions.
At a strategic level, Wyatt’s customer base aligns with Waters’s intention to expand into analytical support for emerging medical technologies, an area that Waters describes as technologically adjacent to its existing strength in chromatography and spectroscopy for quality assurance and control applications.
Waters calls out cell and gene therapies in particular in a press release announcing the deal. “Biologics therapies . . . can dramatically change the quality of life for a significant percentage of the population,” Batra says, but they are expensive. Improved analytical and separation methods could make production more efficient, he says.
The two firms also have complementary technology supporting production of vaccines, proteins, polymers, and nanoparticles.
“My two cents is that Wyatt is a great company” that is well above average for the industry in sales per employee, says Glenn Cudiamat, president of the instrumentation market research firm TDA Analytics. “This is a great fit for Waters.”
Waters, which had 2022 sales of around $3 billion, plans to complete the purchase in the second quarter of this year with a combination of cash and existing credit lines. It will stop repurchasing its own shares through the end of 2023 and use that cash to pay off debt instead.