Asensus Surgical mulls acquisition offer from Karl Storz

Asensus Surgical is weighing an offer to be acquired by Karl Storz following “an extensive period” of evaluating strategic alternatives for the future of the laparoscopic robot maker.

The German medtech staked its claim for Asensus with a deal to buy out all its shares at 35 cents apiece, representing a 66.7% premium over its recent trading price of 23 cents for a total in the ballpark of $95 million. Asensus’ stock jumped more than 30% on the news to about 30 cents per share, putting the company’s market cap just above $76 million.

But the ink is far from dry. So far, the two have only entered into a nonbinding letter of intent to give Karl Storz up to 10 weeks to check its math and negotiate an official acquisition agreement—though the company has communicated that its current bid is its “best and final” offer” according to Asensus.

However, Karl Storz is sweetening its pitch with a bridge loan of up to $20 million to cover Asensus’ operations while it completes its due diligence—and while Asensus refuses to consider any other offers—with half being available upfront and the remainder to come after the deal is signed and the two work toward securing stockholders’ approval for the company to go private.

“The Company cannot provide any assurance that it will be able to agree on final terms with KARL STORZ for a definitive merger agreement,” Asensus said in its announcement. “If negotiations are terminated during the exclusivity period, or, if entered into, the definitive merger agreement is terminated, KARL STORZ will cease to provide any additional bridge financing and the Company will be required to repay the Bridge Loan to KARL STORZ within a prescribed period.”

Asensus said it does not plan to comment further on the acquisition until the deal is either done or it falls through. The company added that it had previously considered “potential collaboration and licensing transactions, a go-it-alone strategy dependent upon raising significant additional equity capital, a sale of the Company and other potential business development transactions” before coming forward with the Karl Storz offer.

In February of last year, Asensus and Karl Storz’s VentureOne robotics subsidiary announced plans to work together to incorporate the former’s computer-augmented vision platform into the latter’s laparoscopic surgery systems. Karl Storz also said it planned to sell Asensus’ Intelligent Surgical Unit as a standalone device.

Late last month, Asensus published its earnings results for the full year of 2023, with more than 3,550 surgical procedures being performed internationally with its Senhance robot, an increase of over 13% versus 2022, as well as the placement of eight new Senhance systems. The company listed $8.6 million in revenue for the year as well as about $21 million in cash on hand as of the end of December.

The company is also developing its next minimally invasive surgery system, named Luna. Asensus said it has wrapped up in vivo evaluations in 13 procedures across gynecology, urology and general surgery.