Deal value: $21.4 billion
Announced: Feb. 25, 2019
Closed: March 31, 2020
Once the very definition of a modern, major conglomerate, General Electric has spent the past decade looking to slim down. But even after selling off its interests in home appliances, television news and entertainment, it still maintains its divisions known globally for jet engines, nuclear energy, wind turbines, CT scanners and more—remaining truly massive.
So large, in fact, that the company took home honors for the biggest M&A deal of 2020: its $21.4 billion trade with medtech giant Danaher for the rights to its life sciences and biomanufacturing business.
GE had once entertained the idea of spinning off its healthcare unit entirely, and even filed a confidential IPO that would have created a standalone company spanning digital imaging, data analytics, patient monitoring and more, with annual sales approaching $20 billion alone.
But those plans were put on hold after the company’s newest chairman and CEO, Larry Culp—himself a former CEO of Danaher for more than a decade—agreed to carve out the division’s biopharma activities and its 7,000-plus employees.
The move encompassed products and services used to develop biologics and cell and gene therapies—including its prefabricated, “biomanufacturing-in-a-box” approach to building modular production lines—as well as chromatography hardware, cell culture media and accompanying software.
Altogether, those businesses formed a new company under Danaher’s corporate umbrella, named Cytiva—which, after the deal closed on March 31 of last year, saw its core sales grow by more than 30% over the remainder of 2020, compared to the same period under GE’s ownership.
This boost was driven largely by its work with the biopharma industry to help develop and produce treatments and vaccines for COVID-19—the same pandemic that threatened to encroach upon not only the company’s international workflow but also the deal itself.
But from the start, Cytiva aimed to be a global company without a set headquarters, with leadership working remotely from its bases across time zones. Early in the pandemic, Cytiva President Emmanuel Ligner told Fierce Medtech that the company would also have to balance its pandemic response with its work outside of COVID-19—with more than 75% of all the biologics approved by the FDA relying in some way on Cytiva’s tech for manufacturing, as of 2019.
More recently, Cytiva opened a new 80,000-square-foot drug production facility outside Worcester, Massachusetts, marking the first step in a $500 million global expansion project slated for the next five years—with the biotherapeutics industry already expected to grow by double digits, even without the demand driven by COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the ripple effects of this multibillion-dollar deal made waves large enough to place a second entry on our list: Danaher’s $825 million sale of its previously held bioanalytics and bioprocessing segments over to the German lab equipment maker Sartorius, which helped clear the regulatory bar for the megamerger.