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Applied Biosystems and Celera return first quarter profits

By Dr Matt Wilkinson , 30-Oct-2007

Applied Biosystems (ABI) saw 5 per cent revenue growth during its first quarter of fiscal 2008 as sister company Celera posted revenue growth of 57 per cent.

Both companies are part of the Applera Corporation, which returned a net pretax profit of $91.7m (€63.7m) during the quarter on revenues of $516.7m, compared with a pretax loss of $57.7m from revenues of $485.4m during the same period last year.


The majority of this income came from the Applied Biosystems group that recorded revenues of $501.2m for its first quarter in its 2008 financial year, the three months to 30 September 2007, up 5 per cent from the same period the previous year.


Pretax profits soared to $90.6m for the quarter compared with a loss of $46.6m seen in the same period last year due to the company's $114.3m acquisition of Agencourt Personal Genomics in July 2006.


That acquisition has since led to the release of the company's SOLiD (supported oligo ligation detection) next-generation gene sequencing system .


"Highlights of the quarter were a 12 per cent increase in consumables revenues, expansion of gross margin and operating margin, and improved technical performance of the SOLiD next-generation sequencing system," said Tony White, CEO of Applera Corporation.


This technical improvement came at a price as research and development costs for the quarter totalled $50.6m, just over 10 per cent of revenues. This compares to $45.6m for the same period in the previous year that equated to 9.5 per cent of revenues, the company attributes these increases to investments in the SOLiD development programme.


The company will be hoping that the launch of the SOLiD system, will bolster its sales of DNA sequencing technologies that dropped 2 per cent to $129m, from $131.5m during Q1 2006. This is no doubt partly due to the increased competition from rival next generation sequencing system suppliers Roche and Illumina.


Mass spectrometry sales from the company's joint venture with MDS Sciex grew 4 per cent to $121.1m, from $116.0m and make up 24 per cent of the company's revenues.


Sales of RT-PCR (real-time polymerase chain reaction) and applied genomics products increased 15 per cent to $180.1m, from $156.1m the year before, and now comprise around 36 per cent of the company's revenues.


Sales of core PCR and DNA synthesis tools grew 1 per cent compare with last year to $46.6m with the company expecting sales of its core PCR tools to decline as customers switch to RT-PCR product lines.


Revenues from the US increased 2 per cent compared to the prior year quarter to $223.9m, with revenues from Europe increasing 11 per cent to $156.8m that included a 6 per cent increase that can be ascribed to favourable currency effects.


Sales in Japan increased to $47.8m, up 2 per cent with sales to the other Asia Pacific countries increasing 8 per cent to $51.2m, validating the company's investment in a new showroom in Shanghai, China .


Applied Biosystems sister company Celera achieved 57 per cent revenue growth for the quarter to reach $16.1m, compared with $10.2m the year before.


The company achieved modest pretax profits of $1.1m, up dramatically from the company's loss of $10.9m for the same quarter during the period year.


This upturn in profitability will no doubt help Applera decide about its August proposal to create "two independent publicly traded companies in place of the two tracking stocks", a strategy for which it hired investment bank Morgan Stanley to advise it upon.


During the company's conference call Celera president Kathy Ordonez said the company is shifting funding from discovery to development, and had curtailed its proteomics-based target discovery and validation activities while continuing to push its diagnostic development programmes.


The company has just completed the acquisition of two diagnostics companies, Berkeley Heartlab for $195m and Atria Genomics for $33m.

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