Report: Life Tech bidding war pits Thermo against private equity team

Life Technologies CEO Greg Lucier

Thermo Fisher ($TMO) has sneaked into the lead among would-be Life Technologies ($LIFE) buyers, but a team of private equity firms is scrambling to get a last-minute bid together for the sequencing giant, Reuters reports.

Life had set a Tuesday-night deadline for buyout bids, and Thermo came in with one between $65 and $70 a share, Reuters' unnamed sources say, valuing the company as high as $12 billion. But a team of private equity players led by Blackstone and Carlyle is working to field a competing offer, according to the news service, and while they've missed the stated cutoff, Life is likely to keep its ears open in the interest of keeping the process competitive.

The private equity heavies are expected to come in with a bid of similar size, so all this wrangling may come down to Life and its board having to choose its next owner.

On the one hand, CEO Greg Lucier is said to prefer the leveraged buyout option, as working under private equity masters would let the company keep much of its autonomy. On the other hand, analysts previously gave Thermo the upper hand because it can squeeze more cost savings out of Life and is willing to buy the company whole.

Either way, with a final deal expected to come in around $12 billion, this protracted process has whittled down Life's perceived value, as early rumors pegged the company as worth up to $15 billion.

Since then, as suitors take a hard look at the company, its three-year average sales increase of 5% may have changed their thinking, especially compared to Life rival Illumina's ($ILMN) 24% revenue increase. If the company ends up going for $65 a share, it'll be a markdown from the $66.18 at which it closed Tuesday.

- read the Reuters story

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