St. Jude Medical, one of the best-known device companies to emerge from Minnesota’s storied Medical Alley, is set to be acquired Wednesday in a $25 billion bid for quick growth by Abbott Laboratories.
The closing of the St. Jude deal follows eight months of preparation, and comes two years to the month after St. Jude’s crosstown rival Medtronic completed its own $50 billion acquisition that greatly expanded its size and scope in selling health care products to hospitals and doctors. St. Jude and Abbott, based in Illinois, have been working toward their own bold solutions in med-tech ever since.
“There’s always a little hometown sadness that a corporate headquarters is going to be someplace else,” said Shaye Mandle, CEO of the state med-tech trade group the Medical Alley Association. “But at least at this point, the deals that are being done ... are good deals, when you don’t have that crossover [in product lines] ... I wouldn’t want to see companies that do the same thing start consolidating and moving workforce out.”
Under the deal, holders of St. Jude stock will get $46.75 in cash and 0.87 shares of Abbott common stock for each share of St. Jude. Taken together, St. Jude investors will be paid about $85 per share. St. Jude stock was trading around $60 a share just before the deal was announced.
The deal is supposed to become profitable for Abbott in the first year, adding 21 cents per share in adjusted earnings to Abbott’s EPS in 2017 and 29 cents per share the year after.
St. Jude’s burgeoning pipeline of high-tech devices to repair the heart and blood vessels and treat chronic pain will give Abbott a quick boost as it seeks to compete with massive med-tech players like Medtronic. St. Jude, meanwhile, is seeking stability from a broader product line as it adapts to the cost pressures facing virtually all companies that sell health care products in the U.S.
“You’re trying to get more care to more patients at a lower cost, and that is a size and scope issue,” Mandle said. “Being able to have that broad portfolio allows you to address some of the market challenges around cost in a completely different way.”
The deal is certain to trigger executive changes at 1 St. Jude Medical Drive in Little Canada; personnel changes have not been released.
Abbott and St. Jude have promised investors $500 million in pretax sales gains and operational efficiencies by 2020 as part of the transaction.
Abbott already has the scale of a company Medtronic’s size, with 74,000 employees and $20 billion in sales last year. The biggest share of Abbott’s revenue came from nutritional products like Similac infant formula and Ensure nutritional shakes, but Abbott sold about $5 billion in medical devices last year, making it the world leader in sales of drug-eluting stents, according to securities filings.
Medtronic has 88,000 employees and annual revenue of about $29 billion, following its acquisition of surgical supplier Covidien in January 2015.
Meanwhile, St. Jude has about 18,000 employees, including roughly 4,000 in Minnesota. Last year it had $5.5 billion in sales of advanced medical devices, including its bestselling product, the implantable defibrillator, which generated $1.6 billion in revenue.
St. Jude defibrillators came under scrutiny in 2016, as short-sellers from the firm Muddy Waters Research claimed that St. Jude’s defibrillators were among the products vulnerable to computer hacking and could be subject to a massive recall. St. Jude defended its cybersecurity efforts and sued Muddy Waters for defamation in a legal battle that Abbott now inherits.
In October, St. Jude reported the deaths of two patients who were using the company’s defibrillators and said that small number of its 251,000 defibrillators implanted in U.S. patients may have the same battery problem that renders the devices inactive with almost no warning. St. Jude changed its battery design to prevent the problem in May 2015, but continued to sell the devices until October 2016.
Abbott has not directly addressed questions about St. Jude’s defibrillators.
Although the companies had very little product overlap, St. Jude announced in October that it would sell its Angio-Seal and Femoseal lines of vascular-closure devices to Japan-based Terumo for $1.12 billion, contingent on the Abbott deal closing. Regulators have approved the deal.