Is Inverness Being Fattened Up for Market?

Watchers of Inverness Medical Innovations (IMA ) think CEO Ron Zwanziger might do it again--that is, turn a medical-tech startup profitable and sell it to a big drugmaker. In the early '90s, Zwanziger formed MediSense, which he sold in 1995 to Abbott Labs for $880 million. He then formed Inverness Medical Technology, developing a device to monitor blood glucose for diabetics. Johnson & Johnson acquired it in mid-2001 for $1.3 billion. Then, J&J spun off its Inverness Medical Innovations unit, which Zwanziger took back. It focuses on women's health and pregnancy test kits, selling products at Walgreens and CVS. Inverness sales are expected to zoom from 2001's $49 million to $240 million in 2002, aided by acquisitions that added $190 million to sales. Sales could top $300 million in 2003 and approach $1 billion in 2004, says one fund manager, who owns shares. He sees the stock, now at 10, hitting 30 in a year and reckons Zwanziger will sell Inverness in a year or two. Scott Wilkin of SC Cowen Securities, which did banking for Inverness this year, figures it will earn 35 cents in 2003 and 75 cents in 2004--way up from 2002's estimated 5 cents.

By Gene Marcial

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