March 12, 2012 12:51 pm

Japan’s Asahi Kasei to buy Zoll for $2.2bn

Chemicals group Asahi Kasei is paying $2.21bn for Zoll Medical, a US maker of defibrillators and other critical care medical equipment, in a deal aimed at speeding up the Japanese group’s diversification into healthcare.

The bid, which is the third overseas acquisition by a Japanese company in the healthcare sector within just over a year, highlights the strong appetite for cross-border mergers and acquisitions as Japanese companies seek to expand outside their stagnant home market.

Last February, Fujifilm acquired two biopharmaceutical companies from Merck, while Terumo acquired a US medical device company this January.

Asahi Kasei’s bid, which represents a 29.6 per cent premium over Zoll’s average share price over 30 days, gives the Japanese group access to the US healthcare market, the largest in the world, as well as expertise in an area which is seeing firm demand in global markets.

Zoll is one of the world’s top three makers of defibrillators, along with Philips and Physio-Control. Defibrillators are used to save lives by giving patients an electric shock in some cases of cardiac arrest.

“In the medical devices business, the US market leads the world, not only in size and scope, but also in technological innovation, so establishing a strong infrastructure in the US is an important step for Asahi Kasei,” said Taketsugu Fujiwara, company president.

The US company, which posted an 18 per cent increase in revenues to $523.7m in the year to October 2 2011, has enjoyed a cumulative average growth rate of 16 per cent for the past decade, according to a banker close to the deal.

The two companies plan to pursue new opportunities in the high-growth markets of Asia, they said.

The Japanese market for defibrillators has become saturated with the top two suppliers – Fukuda Denshi, which supplies products made by Philips, and Nihon Kohden – controlling about 80 to 90 per cent of the market, says Katsuro Hirozumi, analyst at Daiwa Institute of Research in Tokyo.

However, Zoll also provides services related to defibrillation and critical care and its LifeVest – the world’s only wearable defibrillator – has not yet been introduced into the Japanese market.

The Japanese group said it planned to make “strategic investments to accelerate the realisation of Zoll’s mission of leading the world in resuscitation technologies”.

Asahi has targeted healthcare as a key strategic sector which will “power a new phase of growth for the group”, the company said. It has a goal to build a global healthcare business with a focus on critical care.

It aims to increase sales to Y2,000bn ($24.3bn) in 2015 from Y1,598.4bn ($19.5bn) in the year to March 2011.

Asahi Kasei also aims to increase its overseas sales from 28 per cent to 32 per cent of the total by 2015.

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