GE closes on Instrumentarium, may eye Amersham as next acquisition

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After 10 months of regulatory wrangling and behind-the-scenes negotiations, General Electric Co. (GE) on Thursday completed its acquisition of Instrumentarium Corp.

 The ink was hardly dry on the GE-Instrumentarium transaction when a Wall Street Journal report surfaced that GE was in the process of making a pitch to buy Amersham plc, of Little Chalfont, United Kingdom.

 Amersham confirmed that it had been approached about a takeover offer, but declined to name its suitor. GE also declined comment. The Wall Street Journal described GE's potential acquisition plans at "very preliminary."

 On Wednesday, shares of Amersham stock rose $7.36 per share, or 16 percent, to close at $53.41 per share on volume of 349,600 shares. Average daily volume is 23,100 shares. On Thursday, Amersham shares reached a 52-week high of $55.60 per share.

 As for Instrumentarium, GE will pay approximately $2.1 billion for the Helsinki company to put the finishing touches on a transaction that was made public in December 2002.

 Instrumentarium adds medical imaging, patient monitoring, anesthesia delivery, critical care and information systems to already established product lines at GE Medical Systems. The Helsinki operation also will become European headquarters for GE Medical Systems Information Technologies (GEMSIT), the company's $2.6 billion healthcare information technology unit.

 Instrumentarium president and CEO Olli Riikkala will become executive vice president of GEMSIT and CEO of GEMSIT for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

 GE cleared the final regulatory hurdle for the acquisition on Sept. 16, when the U.S. Justice Department reached a settlement with GE to divest two of Instrumentarium's business units. The post-acquisition sales of Instrumentarium's Spacelabs patient monitoring business and Ziehm C-arm product lines will be carried out to alleviate the federal agency's antitrust concerns. The Justice Dept.'s decision came 13 days after the European Commission (EC) cleared the proposed transaction and attached a similar caveat for GE to sell Spacelabs to gain EC approval.