When you really need an answer -- fast -- toss out the crystal ball and bring in Alere. The company offers both professional and consumer diagnostic tests as well as health management services. Its professional diagnostic products include tests for cancers, cardiovascular disease, drugs of abuse, infectious diseases, and women's health including pregnancy tests and fertility monitors. The firm's Alere Health division provides health management services including wellness programs, disease monitoring, and care coordination for patients with complex conditions. Alere also makes consumer diagnostics, include First Check drug tests, through a venture with Procter & Gamble.
Alere's professional products are sold through the company's sales force, as well as through distribution networks to hospitals, laboratories, and physicians' offices. Alere maintains its primary manufacturing sites in China, Japan, South Korea, and the US. It has secondary manufacturing facilities in parts of Europe, Australia, India, Israel, and South Africa. The company conducts its main research and development in Germany, the UK, and the US. It maintains distribution operations in in Asia, Europe, North America, and South America.
Alere has grown significantly through what can only be described as an acquisition rampage. Since 2003 the company has bought up consumer and professional-grade diagnostic product lines and entire companies to establish its dominance in the diagnostics market. Acquisitions brought in diagnostics for home use, drug and parasite screening products, and cholesterol and cancer diagnostics among others. To reflect its growing diversification, the company changed its name to Alere in 2010 and rebranded many of its products and services.
During the recession years of 2008 and 2009, acquisitions slowed a bit, but the company revved back up in 2010 -- starting with an agreement to potentially pay up to $255 million (amended to up to $263 million in 2011) for Epocal, a Canadian maker of blood analysis systems. But first Alere struck a five-year deal with Epocal to sell and distribute its Epoc blood analysis system for blood gas and electrolyte testing. The moves are part of its plan to grow its point-of-care (for bedside, physicians' offices, mobile clinics, or critical care settings) diagnostics business.
Also in 2010 the company expanded in the occupational and forensic services markets by acquiring Kroll Laboratory Specialists, the substance abuse testing division of consulting firm Kroll, for $110 million. Shortly thereafter the business was renamed Alere Toxicology Services. It further expanded its toxicology business in 2012 when it acquired employee drug testing firm eScreen for some $270 million. The purchase added an automated technology platform that allows for optical scanning of urine samples, with results reported electronically to employers within minutes of testing.
Alere has been equally acquisitive overseas, buying up both diagnostic manufacturers and distributors in Australia, China, and Europe. In 2009 it purchased UK diagnostics firm Concateno, which makes and distributes drugs-of-abuse tests, for £47.5 million ($76 million). In 2010 it bought up a majority of Korea's Standard Diagnostics, which produces reagents for diagnosing infectious diseases and other tests.
Alere further expanded its point-of-care offerings through the acquisition of UK-based Axis-Shield in late 2011. Axis-Shield first rejected Alere's $355 million bid, and Alere took the bid to shareholders. After Alere raised the offer to some $375 million, the bid gained traction with shareholders and Axis-Shield's board accepted the offer. The purchase added point-of-care diagnostics for bacterial and viral infection, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Secure in the professional diagnostics industry, Alere chose to diversify by entering into health management in 2008. Acquisitions of several health management and health information techology companies in 2009, including Free & Clear and Tapestry Medical, helped to bulk up the Alere Health business quickly. The company's Alere Disease Management Program is marketed to health plans and self-insured employers to help manage the costs associated with plan participants who have chronic or expensive health conditions. Other offerings include complex care management, home monitoring, patient self-testing, obstetrics, oncology, and wellness programs. However, an increasingly competitive environment in the health management industry caused the company to take a $1 billion goodwill impairment charge in the segment during 2010, causing an overall net income loss for the company that year.
Alere's smaller consumer diagnostics business, which distributes tests to consumers through retail drug and grocery retailers, are handled through a joint venture with Proctor & Gamble that was formed in 2007. Alere put all of its OTC pregnancy and fertility test brands into the pot and agreed to do all of the manufacturing while P&G tossed in $325 million. Operating under the name SPD Swiss Precision Diagnostics, the venture took over the marketing of such brands as Clearblue Easy, Fact Plus, and Accu-Clear.
To narrow its operations to focus on diagnostics and management services, in 2010 Alere sold its consumer vitamins and nutritional product operations, including its StressTabs vitamin line and its Inverness Medical Nutritionals Group subsidiary (private-label vitamins and supplements), to International Vitamin Corporation for about $63 million.
In 2011 the company's net revenues grew by about 11% to $2.4 billion from $2.1 billion in 2010. The increase is largely due to its health management and professional diagnostics-related acquisitions, increased flu-related product sales in North America, and organic growth. All geographic markets showed increases in net sales and services revenues. The professional diagnostics products and services segment showed the most growth, with a 21% increase over 2010. The health management segment was negatively impacted by an increasingly competitive environment. Alere generated a net loss of $133.5 million in 2011. – less