Consolidation of major companies topic of imaging industry speculation

November 24, 1999

Potential Philips/Picker, Siemens/Toshiba moves discussedMergers and acquisitions—both real and imagined—are not new to the medical imaging marketplace. But with several blockbuster deals completed in the last year, some market watchers

Potential Philips/Picker, Siemens/Toshiba moves discussed

Mergers and acquisitions—both real and imagined—are not new to the medical imaging marketplace. But with several blockbuster deals completed in the last year, some market watchers believe further consolidation could be impending. Two possible deals have surfaced of late on the industry grapevine: One has Picker buying Philips Medical Systems, while the other purports that Siemens Medical Engineering will acquire a majority of Toshiba Medical Systems’ operations.

Rumors about a possible Picker acquisition of Philips have circulated off and on for years, but were revived early this year when George Simpson, chairman of Picker’s parent GEC, said his company could be eyeing the medical electronics business of Siemens or Philips (SCAN 2/3/99). GEC was considering using the profits from the sale of its defense businesses to bolster its communications and technology concerns, such as Picker.

The rumors were fanned last month by an e-mail posted on the American Healthcare Radiology Administrators’ listserv. The message, which claimed to be based on inside information, claimed that GEC would make a name change to Marconi at the end of November as part of a bid for an increased presence in the U.S. marketplace. The change would be made, it was stated, to avoid any mistaken market association with GE Medical Systems. Marconi would then announce the purchase of Philips to form a new company, Marconi Medical Imaging, according to the e-mail message.

Picker declined to comment on the matter. A Philips spokesperson told SCAN that the company was not the source of this information, and there is no truth to the rumors.

The buzz about a possible deal between Philips and Picker has been matched by reports in the German press that Siemens and Toshiba are in negotiations. Manager Magazin reported that Siemens plans to acquire a large portion of Toshiba’s medical technology operations, including ultrasound, CT, and nuclear medicine.

Another publication, Handelsblatt, reported that executives at Siemens and Toshiba have discussed some form of cooperation in medical technology. One of the topics of the negotiations could be the formation of a joint venture with Toshiba, according to the paper.

Toshiba and Siemens are not strangers, having cooperated on various technologies for more than 10 years. In early 1997, Siemens announced that it would provide its E.Cam variable angle gamma camera to Toshiba on a reseller basis (SCAN 4/02/97). Under the terms of that agreement, Toshiba sold and serviced the cameras worldwide.

The two firms also work together in ultrasound. In June 1998, the vendors announced they would collaborate on development of basic ultrasound technology (SCAN 6/10/98). The agreement covers technology commonly used in ultrasound scanners, such as beamformer components. Each firm continues to independently develop, manufacture, and market its own product line, and also to develop specific clinical applications.

A Siemens spokesperson confirmed that discussions were under way with Toshiba about ways to extend the partnership, but said the firms are always in discussions on that subject. Toshiba Corp. president and CEO Taizo Nishimuro echoed that sentiment in a statement about the rumors.

“With a number of agreements already in effect between Siemens and Toshiba, it is only natural that we discuss from time to time other potential alliances or an expansion of the scope of our partnership,” he said. “For Toshiba, the medical systems business is one of its key and profitable businesses. There are no plans to form a single company from the medical systems businesses of Siemens and Toshiba, nor does Toshiba have any intention of selling any of its medical systems businesses, or of otherwise reducing its aggressive pursuit of success in the medical systems market.”