Beckman Coulter (NASDAQ: BEC) is a manufacturer of biomedical testing instrument systems with a top 5 market share in blood testing, blood clotting, immunoassay, chemistry testing, and lab automation markets. It is the world's largest company devoted solely to biomedical testing, and BEC has a wide variety of customers including hospitals, physician's offices, and reference labs. BEC generates its revenue from leases of instruments to customers as well as from consumables and accessories for those instruments, which include reagent kits, supplies and services.
Another way BEC earns revenues is through its Life Science research instruments and tools. These are used by scientists to study complex biological problems such as causes of disease and finding new therapies. Life Science customers include pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, universities, medical schools and research institutions.
Beckman Coulter sells its major instruments through leases to customers, which is the commonly practiced methods of sales in the biomedical testing market. This leasing system results in a high proportion of revenue recurring year over year in the form of lease payments, which lowers overall risk of revenue fluctuation. 81% of Beckman Coulter's revenue in 2009 was recurring.
Central laboratories of hospitals represent Beckman Coulter's most significant customer group. Purchase of a Beckman Coulter instrument requires a significant investment for these customers in infrastructure and implementation. These high switching and implementation costs that follow from this steep investment lead to low turnover within the biomedical testing market. As a result, gaining market share from competitors and taking advantage of new market opportunities is critical to the success of Beckman Coulter.
Beckman Coulter was founded as National Technical Laboratories in 1935 by Arnold O. Beckman to commercialize a pH reader that he had developed. In 1982 the company, then known as Beckman Instruments, was acquired by SmithKline to form SmithKline Beckman. In 1989, as SmithKline merged with Beecham Group to form SmithKline Beecham (now GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)), Beckman Instruments regained its independence. In 1998, Beckman acquired Coulter Corporation to become Beckman Coulter (BEC).
BEC's revenue grew from $3.10 billion in 2008 to $3.26 billion in 2009. Despite the increase in revenue, BEC's operating income declined from $285 million in 2008 to $231 million in 2009, largely because its cost of revenues increased significantly between the two years. As a result, its net income also declined from $186 million to $147 million in 2009.
BEC breaks its operations into three reportable segments: i) Chemistry and Clinical Automation, ii) Cellular Analysis, and iii) Immunoassay and Molecular Diagnostics.
Beckman Coulter's chemistry tests measure vital molecules in the body, such as glucose (diabetes) and cholesterol (cardiovascular disease), to monitor and diagnose diseases. However, chemistry tests do not use antibodies for detection. Beckman Coulter's chemistry tests share some of the same platforms as their immunoassays, such as the UniCel® and SYNCHRON® systems
Laboratories and hospitals that perform a high volume of tests require automation systems in order to achieve maximum efficiency. Beckman Coulter has a 50% worldwide market share in lab automation systems, and has automated systems for many of their other tests, including the UniCel®, COULTER® LH, and Optima™ systems.
In 2009, this segment earned total sales of $1.06 billion.
Cellular analysis consists of hematology, flow cytometry, and hemostasis systems.
Beckman Coulter sells the most frequently ordered diagnostic in hematology, the complete blood cell count (CBC). The COULTER® LH 780 Hematology Analyzer is Beckman Coulter's flagship hematology product for blood cell counting. CBCs are very common tests that can be used to assess the general health status of an individual. CBCs are also useful to check for anemia or the presence and progression of diseases such as leukemia or autoimmune conditions.
Flow cytometry helps identify and sort cells that can be important for monitoring the presence and status of diseases such as HIV, leukemias, and lymphomas in tissue samples. Beckman Coulter has several flow cytometers, including the Cell Lab Quanta™ line, the Cytomics FC500 Series, the EPICS® XL™, and the VI CELL S system .
Hemostasis is the process by which blood clots. Hemostasis tests test factors such as platlet counts in the blood in order to spot clotting problems in patients. Backman Coulter's ACL series provides these tests for physicians and researchers.
In 2009, this segment earned revenues of $935 million.
Immunoassay tests use antibodies to detect the level of certain disease markers in the body. Beckman coulter has a wide range of immunoassay tests that include anemia, cardiovascular, reproductive, thyroid, infectious disease, blood virus, skeletal, and tumor marker tests. Beckman Coulter's tests include the Access®, UniCel®, AccuTnI™, Hybritech®, OSTASE®, and SYNCHRON® systems.
In 2009, this segment earned total revenues of $798.3 million.
Beckman Coulter's instruments are very expensive, and typically require investments in infrastructure and planning as they are implemented into customer labs. As a result, there is a high switching cost for customers once a system has been implemented. This places a high priority on Beckman Coulter and its competitors to take market share from each other. While Beckman Coulter has successfully taken market share from its competitors in the past year (see Immunoassay Market Share and Chemistry Market Share), they continually face the risk that they will lose customers to competitors. High customer loyalty also puts pressure on Beckman Coulter to pursue new markets aggressively as they open up in the biomedical testing space.
While Beckman Coulter has obtained significant market share in the markets in which it competes, its competitors, such as JOHNSON & JOHNSON (JNJ), Roche Pharmaceuticals (RHHBY), Siemens AG (SI), and Abbott Laboratories (ABT) are much larger companies. However, Beckman Coulter is fully devoted to biomedical testing, while its competitors are much less focused. Beckman Coulter's focus allow it to devote more of its top talent to make proper market decisions in the market and grab share away from competitors. However, the size and breadth of Beckman Coulter's competitors make them robust to market shifts and downswings relative to Beckman Coulter. This makes Beckman Coulter a riskier company to invest in than its competitors (albeit with higher potential returns).
For a detailed discussion of the aging population, see also Aging Baby Boomers.
Increased life expectancy in the developed world coupled with decreased birth rates, and an aging "Baby Boomer" generation will increase expenditure on many of the tests that Beckman Coulter sells. In addition, increased expenditure on diseases requiring ongoing treatment, such as AIDS, cancer, and diabetes continue to open up opportunities for Beckman Coulter and its competitors to grab market share. As a result, it is important that Beckman Coulter continue to provide cost-effective and competitive products so that it is able to take advantage of these opportunities.
Beckman Coulter's major competitors include Becton, Dickinson and Company (BDX), Abbott Laboratories (ABT), JOHNSON & JOHNSON (JNJ), Roche Pharmaceuticals (RHHBY), and Siemens AG (SI). Beckman Coulter competes in several major markets, which are divided in a manner similar to Beckman Coulter's product line.