Quest Diagnostics Buys Thermo Unit for $740 Million

(Corrects Worcester spelling in the second paragraph.)

Quest Diagnostics Inc. agreed to buy a laboratory business from Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. for $740 million in cash as it expands into testing for neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease.

Athena Diagnostics, based in Worcester, Massachusetts, has more than 350 tests to confirm or rule out physicians’ diagnoses of Alzheimer’s and neuromuscular and developmental disorders, Madison, New Jersey-based Quest said today in a statement. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter.

About 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, including 5.1 million over age 65, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Someone develops the condition every 70 seconds, with the frequency expected to grow to every 33 seconds by mid-century, according to the Chicago-based organization.

“Athena will be the principal beneficiary of the accelerated demand for diagnostic testing as new and earlier therapies are developed for neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease,” Quest Chief Executive Officer Surya N. Mohapatra said in the statement.

Quest declined 5 cents to $56.61 at 9:30 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, and the shares were little changed in the 12 months before today. Thermo Fisher fell 43 cents to $54.54, and was up 11 percent in the last 12 months through yesterday.

Diagnostic Acquisitions

There have been 354 acquisitions announced in the last five years of companies in the scientific instruments and diagnostics industries, according to Bloomberg data. The average disclosed deal size was $214.4 million, the data show.

Thermo Fisher, the world’s largest maker of laboratory instruments, also said in a separate statement that it will sell Lancaster Laboratories to Eurofins Scientific SE for $200 million, and said it will buy back $750 million in stock.

The company’s board approved the new share-repurchase program, which expires Feb. 22, 2012. Thermo Fisher said it has $385 million remaining under an existing buyback plan, which expires Sept. 8. The company will update its financial forecast for the year early in the second quarter.

To contact the reporter responsible for this story: Meg Tirrell in New York at mtirrell@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net.

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