Pace of RSNA product debuts slows as vendors focus on consolidation

November 22, 1995

Companies form alliances to survive in slow marketImaging technology buffs beware: You may be disappointed by thedearth of new product offerings at this year's Radiological Societyof North America meeting. A quick survey of major medical

Companies form alliances to survive in slow market

Imaging technology buffs beware: You may be disappointed by thedearth of new product offerings at this year's Radiological Societyof North America meeting. A quick survey of major medical imagingvendors in the weeks before the meeting disclosed only severalcompanies that are planning to introduce new product platforms,with most firms concentrating on upgrades and enhancements. Theatmosphere stands in contrast to last year, when new open MRIscanners highlighted a bumper crop of product debuts (SCAN 11/23/94).

An overemphasis on new products, however, would miss the realstory in the medical imaging industry this year: corporate consolidation.The pace of consolidation picked up rapidly in 1995 as vendorssought strength through synergy. The long drought in capital equipmentpurchasing has forced companies to seek alliances with other firmsin order to survive in a market that shows few signs of returningto its former glory.

Significant alliances, acquisitions and mergers in 1995 included:

  • ATL's agreement with Hitachi Medical for joint ultrasoundR&D;
  • Acoustic Imaging's integration with parent Dornier MedicalSystems;
  • Hafslund Nycomed's proposed merger with generic drug firmIvax;
  • GE's acquisition of the assets of MRI developer Resonex;
  • ThermoTrex Corp.'s acquisition of Bennett X-Ray;
  • Picker's acquisition of gamma camera firm Scinticor;
  • Schering's purchase of contrast injector vendor Medrad;
  • Nuclear medicine vendors Sopha Medical and Summit Nuclearjoining forces as SMV;
  • Advanced NMR's merger with Medical Diagnostics; and
  • The merger of PACS developers Cemax and Icon, and the subsequentinvestment in the merged company by 3M.

There are familiar patterns behind many of these consolidations.Small companies are searching for partners, either through equityinvestments or outright acquisitions, that will give them thestaying power needed for long-term survival in a tough market.Medium-sized companies are looking for mergers to attain the sizeneeded to compete with larger firms. And large companies are usingacquisition and equity investment to acquire product lines thatwould be too expensive and time-consuming to develop internally.

Picker's acquisition of Scinticor is a case in point. The nuclearcardiology segment has grown rapidly in recent years, but theCleveland vendor has not had a gamma camera specifically targetedat cardiac imaging, as do its competitors. Acquiring Scinticorenabled Picker to quickly integrate that company's SIM-400 cardiaccamera into its product line, saving years that might have beenspent on developing a cardiac product on its own (SCAN 9/27/95).

In 1996, imaging industry observers will likely see the trendtoward consolidation gain steam, fueled in part by contacts andrelationships cemented at this year's RSNA conference.

The following pages offer a brief synopsis of some of the newproducts and technologies you'll encounter while visiting theRSNA's technical exhibit floor.