Robust Times for Diagnostic Companies
The diagnostic industry's buoyant health was evident at this year's American Association for Clinical Chemistry meeting in Los Angeles. Floor space was sold out and attendance hit a record. In contrast to a malaise in the industry through much of the 1990s, diagnostics now have reimbursement, demographic, and labor shortage trends in their favor. At $24.9 billion in revenues, experts say the industry is poised to deliver another year of double-digit growth, following an 11% gain in 2003.
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A year ago, Dade Behring, the nation's sixth largest diagnostics company, was facing a huge debt and very angry debt holders. Now, the company seems close to a deal that would allow it to cut the debt in half (to about $750 million) and give debtholders full ownership of Dade Behring. The company would file a voluntary pre-packaged bankruptcy in federal court, which would also enable it to start trading securities on the public equities market. Nothing is finalized, but sources say the company is confident it will prevail. Meanwhile, its financial performance is picking up, with strong growth in all core product lines.
For more than a year, Dade Behring has been wading through a financial morass that is likely to lead to bankruptcy, a sale of assets, or a reorganization of capital structure. As concerns mount about its long-term prospects, Dade Behring and its lenders are seeking to restructure the company's burdensome long-term debt. While stubborn lenders have been unwilling to accept less than a near-to-full return on their investment, several events this spring seem to be motivating them to be more flexible.