Esaote Biomedica breaks out of Italy as company seeks 8 percent global market share

Firm inks pact with Siemens for Pacific Rim salesItalian ultrasound manufacturer Esaote Biomedica is encounteringsuccess in its effort to break out of its core market in Italyand become a global player in the medical device market. The Genoafirm

Firm inks pact with Siemens for Pacific Rim sales

Italian ultrasound manufacturer Esaote Biomedica is encounteringsuccess in its effort to break out of its core market in Italyand become a global player in the medical device market. The Genoafirm has big plans for 1997, and intends to pursue alliances withother device companies to help it expand its international reach.

Esaote has already seen a big turnover in its customer demographics.In the early '90s, 80% to 90% of Esaote's sales were in Italy.Today, more than 50% of the company's sales come from outsidethe country, said Fabrizio Landi, executive vice president.

Although Esaote estimates that its worldwide ultrasound marketshare grew to 5.1% in 1996 from 4.8% in 1995, the company hopesthat by 2000 it can expand to 8% or 9% its share of what willprobably be a flat world market. Esaote aims to achieve this byfocusing on two key strategies in ultrasound. First, the vendorwill try to penetrate new international markets for its products,securing broader geographical coverage. Second, the company willmaintain its focus on medium- to medium-high-end ultrasound scanners,Landi said.

Despite an overall flat ultrasound market, several markets,such as China and Korea, are growing. Esaote will seek to takeadvantage of these and other emerging markets, Landi said. Forexample, the company launched Esaote China, a Hong Kong-basedjoint venture, late last year. Esaote owns a majority interestin the joint venture.

Within each ultrasound market, Esaote targets different customers.For example, the vendor, through its wholly owned Biosound subsidiary,focuses primarily in the U.S. on the non-hospital-based cardiovascularsegment.

"It's not our plan to enter the hospital market, becauseif you're not an ATL, Acuson, HP, etc., it's a formidable taskto enter," Landi said.

In China, on the other hand, Esaote is very active in thehospital-based market, Landi said.

As part of the company's drive for an increased presence inemerging markets, Esaote is open to agreements or cooperativerelationships with other vendors, even though it may compete withthem in other regions of the world, Landi said.

At last month's Radiological Society of North America meeting,the company announced a three-year agreement that will allow SiemensUltrasound to sell Esaote's ultrasound product line in eight PacificRim countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines,Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

A partnership with Hitachi in Italy has also reaped dividendsfor Esaote. The agreement, under which Esaote sells Hitachi'sCT scanners, whole-body MRI units, and ultrasound machines, allowsItalian customers to choose among a wide range of products. Thatapproach has enabled Esaote to secure more than a 30% ultrasoundmarket share in Italy, Landi said.

The increased ratio of foreign sales did hurt the companyin 1996, however, as a major lira devaluation impacted earnings.Still, revenue from the first six months of 1996 rose 8.9% comparedwith the same period in 1995. The company also initiated a successfulstock offering in 1996. Since the offering, the stock price hasgrown 50%, Landi said (SCAN 7/17/96).

A collaborative effort with Bracco of Milan to optimize ultrasoundscanners with contrast agents is proceeding, and an ultrasoundcontrast capability should be ready for market by 1998 or 1999,according to Gerald Erb, president and CEO of Indianapolis-basedBiosound. Bracco holds a 10% interest in Esaote following a dealmade in December 1995 (SCAN 2/14/96).

In addition to the agreement with Bracco, Esaote hopes todevelop specific software packages for different contrast mediathat will optimize the company's equipment to take advantage ofeach agent, Landi said. Esaote is still evaluating what role 3-Dultrasound will play in its product line.

While ultrasound remains Esaote's core business, the companyhas also had favorable results with Artoscan, its dedicated extremityMRI scanner. Artoscan's installed base climbed from 140 scannersin October 1995 to over 220 by the end of 1996, Landi said.

Esaote also entered the Japanese MRI market in 1996 via adistributor relationship with JEOL, an electron microscope manufacturerthat markets Lunar's bone densitometry equipment in Japan, Landisaid. Artoscan is sold in the U.S. by Lunar of Madison, WI.

In the image distribution arena, the company introduced MedE-Mailat the RSNA meeting. MedE-Mail, a Windows NT-based software package,automatically creates e-mail messages with attachments of patientimages and related information.

In other news, Esaote plans to rename Biosound to BiosoundEsaote by mid-1997, Erb said.