Thermo Fisher Scientific has begun early talks to take over Dutch diagnostics maker Qiagen, which has the potential to become one of its largest acquisitions, according to a report from Bloomberg.
But they aren't the only one. On the Friday following the report, trading was temporarily halted as Qiagen disclosed that it received "conditional, non-binding indications of interest" from several potential suitors—and that it has begun conversations that could lead to a bidding war for the $8 billion company.
The moves come a month after longtime Qiagen CEO Peer Schatz announced he would step down, both as chief and chairman of the management board, amid the company’s reorganization around a 15-year partnership with Illumina and its sequencing hardware.
After 27 years with Qiagen and serving as one of its first employees, Schatz described the moment as a “natural inflection point to bring in new leadership.” He will stay on as an adviser, while molecular diagnostics business head Thierry Bernard handles interim CEO duties as the company searches for a permanent successor—or not, as the case may be.
Qiagen’s stock jumped in multiple markets following the initial news of a possible deal: up 11% in Frankfurt to over €33 and up about 10% in New York, passing $35. That brings them back to about the same value seen before the sharp drops that followed October’s deal with Illumina, where Qiagen said it would stop developing its own instruments and opt instead to design next-generation sequencing test kits for Illumina’s machines.
Thermo Fisher’s share price, meanwhile, rose about 1.4% to just over $300 on the New York Stock Exchange. But at the moment, it is not confirmed whether the early discussions will lead to a deal, according to the Bloomberg report.
The Waltham, Massachusetts-based manufacturer also launched new sequencing hardware of its own earlier this month, including an automated platform designed to turn around results in a single day, alongside a pan-cancer genomic profiling test that can be run from both tissue and liquid biopsy samples.
“Our goal is to advance precision medicine in every clinical setting by enabling clinicians to leverage the power of comprehensive genomic information,” Thermo Fisher Chief Operating Officer Mark Stevenson said at the time.
Furthermore, Thermo Fisher has been busy this year making new additions and expanding its manufacturing base for biologic medicines, gene therapies and active pharmaceutical ingredients. It recently pledged to invest at least $270 million this year across its product lines, following acquisitions in Ireland and expansions in North Carolina and Italy.
But a potential offer for Qiagen, with its $8 billion market cap and $1.5 billion in annual revenue, could surpass its recent big-ticket purchases—including its $1.7 billion deal with viral vector maker Brammer Bio, or the $5.2 billion it paid for contract development and manufacturing organization Patheon in 2017.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with the subsequent announcement made by Qiagen.