Gen-Probe hired Morgan Stanley to seek a buyer.

Shares of Gen-Probe jumped 14 percent today after Bloomberg reported that the firm has hired Morgan Stanley to seek a buyer. Among the possible bidders listed in the article are Novartis, Thermo-Fisher Scientific, Danaher, and Life Technologies. Novartis already sells Gen-Probe’s Tigris blood-screening instrument to blood banks, and it has helped fund development of Gen-Probe’s new automated molecular testing platform, called Panther. The firms have collaborated since 1998 on nucleic acid tests and instruments for the blood screening market.
According to Mizuho analyst Peter Lawson, around $12 billion has been spent on diagnostics-focused merger and acquisition activity over the past year. He noted that typical molecular and proprietary-focused acquisition valuations fall into the 3x-6x price/sales range.
Two months ago, Gen-Probe reported full-year 2010 revenues of $543.3 million.
At that time, it also reported a 2 percent decrease in fourth-quarter revenues, driven by an 11 percent decline in its blood screening business. Gen-Probe attributed the decrease to lower sales of the Tigris system to Novartis, while blood screening assay sales were flat compared to the prior year.
The firm is scheduled to report its first-quarter financial results after the close of the market today.
In late Thursday trade on the Nasdaq, Gen-Probe’s shares were up 14 percent at $79.99.
Its market capitalization is nearly $4 billion.

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