Thermo Fisher flashes the Covid cash

The $2.6bn acquisition of The Binding Site is 2022’s biggest medtech deal, but investors are unmoved.

So far this year, one obvious trend in the medtech acquisitions scene is the willingness of private equity companies to buy big. Today brings a reversal: Nordic Capital has sold one of its holdings, the diagnostics group The Binding Site, to Thermo Fisher Scientific. 

At £2.3bn ($2.6bn), this is the biggest acquisition of a device maker to have been announced this year. It is also Thermo Fisher’s largest takeout of a medtech company since the $4.2bn swoop for the electron microscopy specialist FEI in 2016 – though the one that got away, Thermo Fisher’s attempted purchase of Qiagen in 2020, would have been much larger. 

The buy is a move by Thermo to put some of its Covid testing cash to work, but investors were unimpressed, with the group's stock flat in early trade.

The Binding Site’s flagship product is Freelite, a blood test that can diagnose multiple myeloma as well as monitor the course of the disease and even, under some circumstances, provide prognostic information. The test is the standard of care, according to SVB analysts, and is the only light chain assay included in national and international guidelines.


It has taken Nordic Capital some time to get shot of the UK company. Nordic, along with Five Arrows, the alternative assets arm of Rothschild & Co, bought The Binding Site for an undisclosed amount in 2011. Since then, Nordic says The Binding Site’s revenues have grown fivefold. 

Thermo Fisher says The Binding Site is growing at 10% annually, with 2022 sales expected to top £220m. 

Thermo Fisher itself is forecast to grow at 6% annually out to 2028, according to Evaluate Medtech’s sellside consensus. The group did well out of the pandemic thanks to its development of tests for the virus, with its sales leaping from $3.7bn in 2019 to $5.3bn the year after.

Thermo Fisher’s revenues are forecast to fall this year as Covid test demand slackens. 

But the company banked huge amounts of cash over the past couple of years, which it is now putting to use. As well as today’s acquisition Thermo Fisher is planning a $1bn share repurchase programme for the fourth quarter of this year, having repurchased $2bn-worth of shares in the first quarter.

The acquisition of The Binding Site is a much smaller deal than the Qiagen purchase would have been, and will disappoint Thermo Fisher investors hoping that it would spend its Covid windfall on a more transformative deal. 

Top 5 medtech M&A of 2022
Announcement date Acquirer Target Value ($bn) Focus
Oct 31 Thermo Fisher The Binding Site 2.6 In vitro diagnostics
Jul 7 SD Biosensor Meridian Bioscience 1.5 In vitro diagnostics
Jan 1 Owens & Minor Apria 1.5 Anaesthesia & respiratory
Jul 21 Patient Square Capital (private equity) Hanger 1.3 General & plastic surgery, neurology, orthopaedics, patient monitoring and physical medicine
Apr 18 Archimed
(private equity)
Natus Medical 1.2 Anaesthesia & respiratory
Source: Evaluate Medtech, company release. 

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