Slow low-field sales doom Sopha MRI unit

February 2, 1994

Sopha Medical plans to shut down its troubled MRI subsidiary thismonth. The French gamma camera maker will enter Sopha Imaginginto bankruptcy proceedings in a Paris commercial court, accordingto a company spokesperson.The decision to put Sopha Imaging

Sopha Medical plans to shut down its troubled MRI subsidiary thismonth. The French gamma camera maker will enter Sopha Imaginginto bankruptcy proceedings in a Paris commercial court, accordingto a company spokesperson.

The decision to put Sopha Imaging out of its misery came afterattempts to find a new parent for the subsidiary failed. SophaMedical of Buc, France, was close to reaching an agreement witha buyer last year but talks apparently broke down (SCAN 11/3/93).

Sopha's MRI effort began in 1991, when it purchased 51% ofFrench MRI developer Magnetech and renamed the company Sopha Imaging(SCAN 5/22/91). Sopha had plans to introduce Magnetech's 0.1-teslascanner, dubbed Sophymag, in the U.S.

The low-field MRI market never developed as expected, however.Sophymag's installed base topped out at five units, all sold inFrance. In addition, the French government never delivered ona promise to purchase eight Sophymags, according to Brigitte Castelli,a Sopha spokesperson. Sopha Imaging stopped shipping MRI scannersat the end of 1992.

Sopha Imaging considered developing a new MRI product througha partnership with another MRI manufacturer, but an agreementnever materialized. Bankruptcy proceedings for Sopha Imaging beganin March 1993, Castelli said.

The situation was not helped by Sopha Medical's own woes atthe time. Sopha's rapid growth since 1987 led to capitalizationproblems that were resolved when a majority interest in Sophawas purchased by CEA-Industrie, a for-profit division of the Frenchgovernment's Atomic Energy Commission (SCAN 4/7/93). CEA-I nowowns 78% of Sopha Medical.

Since CEA-I assumed control of Sopha Medical, revenues haveshown strong growth, due to sales of Sophycamera DST, Sopha'sadjustable 90´ dual-head gamma camera, Castelli said.

Sopha Medical plans to declare final bankruptcy for Sopha Imagingthis month. While the move will close an unfortunate chapter inthe company's history, it will give Sopha Medical the abilityto concentrate on its core modality.

"Sopha Medical made this decision because we don't feelthat MRI is a part of our basic business, which is nuclear medicine,"Castelli said.