Ziehm Imaging commits to mobile x-ray market

April 21, 2004

Loose ends cease to dangle on both side of AtlanticGE completed its long-drawn-out acquisition of Instrumentarium Imaging back in October, but the final loose ends are only now being tied. An 11th-hour decree from the U.S.

Loose ends cease to dangle on both side of Atlantic

GE completed its long-drawn-out acquisition of Instrumentarium Imaging back in October, but the final loose ends are only now being tied. An 11th-hour decree from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Canadian Competition Bureau forced Instrumentarium to shed its Ziehm mobile C-arm business before the merger could be completed (SCAN 10/29/03). Ziehm has now picked itself up from the surprise divestment and relaunched as an independent company.

The all-new Ziehm Imaging is the product of an internal merger, finalized in early February, between the former Instrumentarium Imaging Ziehm, based in Nuremberg, Germany, and Instrumentarium Ziehm of Riverside, CA. The company is being funded primarily by the German asset management company Aton, which becomes the major shareholder. Ziehm Imaging's management team has also invested in the venture as a condition of the deal.

Although Aton holds most seats on the board, the private investor has no influence over business decisions, said Dr. Jörg Ströbel, managing director of Ziehm Imaging.

"At the moment they are just putting in money," he said. "There is an understanding that the management is one of the investors, albeit with a minor financial share at the moment, and that the management is running the business."

Operational decisions will come from Ströbel's office in Nuremberg, now the hub of the new independent business. Plans for restructuring the Riverside location to house Ziehm's U.S. sales and marketing office and final assembly of products tailored to the U.S. market are currently under consideration.

"We need to decide how to make the best use of our new configuration," Ströbel said. "I think there will be a lot of synergies."

Ziehm Imaging will be focusing exclusively on the development, production, marketing, and servicing of mobile x-ray solutions, a niche area with considerable market potential, according to Ströbel. Continuing technological advances will see more mobile units fulfilling the functions of stationary units. Healthcare trends toward more outpatient clinics, minimally invasive procedures, and intraoperative imaging will also benefit the mobile equipment market.

"We claim that our products provide functionality, mobility, and connectivity," he said. "Our units serve a wide range of applications and come with an easy-to-handle user interface. We can attach to any existing system that meets the DICOM standard, and we provide our functionality on the smallest possible footprint and with the lowest weight."

The company will be building on its existing reputation as a purveyor of high-quality hardware, drawing on the expertise of a workforce experienced in its core business.

"What we are not aiming at is the low-price market. We want to offer guaranteed quality as a specialist in this area, though we still have some products available with well-defined limited functionality and at a reasonable price for certain midrange areas and price-sensitive markets," Ströbel said.

Ziehm's focused approach will be a key strength in its battle with giant-sized competitors GE Healthcare, Philips Medical Systems, and Siemens Medical Solutions, he said.

"Our customers have to be satisfied because we have nothing else to sell," he said. "Our competitors focus on the large imaging modalities, CT and MRI, for growth and profit. Perhaps they add a C-arm from time to time. But the C-arm is the only thing we sell, so that is where we put all of our knowledge, enthusiasm, and effort."