Abbott Says It’s Auditing Alere Books; Got Partial Response

  • Alere shares fall as much as 2.1 percent after Abbott comment
  • ‘Exercised its contractual rights to audit’ books, records

Abbott Laboratories may not be getting any closer to completing its $5.8 billion takeover of Alere Inc. after saying its looking into the books of the target company, which is under investigation by the U.S. for its business practices in overseas markets.

Alere’s shares fell Wednesday, a sign that investors are less certain that any transaction will close. Abbott previously requested to terminate the acquisition, Alere said in April, after Abbott had “serious concerns” about the accuracy of financial information provided by Alere as part of the merger agreement.

The stock was down less than 1 percent to $42.89 at 1:40 p.m. in New York, after earlier falling as much as 2.1 percent. Abbott shares fell less than 1 percent to $39.45.

The move by Abbott is the latest twist in a tortured relationship between the two companies, where Abbott has tried to cancel the deal and Alere has only reluctantly communicated with its potential buyer. If it can’t get out of the transaction, Abbott could have to assume liability for any of Alere’s past alleged misdeeds.

“Abbott is abiding by the terms of the contract with Alere and has exercised its contractual rights to audit Alere’s books and records,” Darcy Ross, a company spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. “To date, we have had a partial response from the company.”

Alere Statement

Alere said Wednesday it still expected the acquisition to close as planned.

“Alere is in full compliance with its merger agreement with Abbott and we are confident that the transaction will be completed in accordance with its terms,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. 

Alere still hasn’t filed its financial reports for 2015 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and said in February that it was reviewing how it recognized revenue in Africa and China. The company isn’t likely to share any of that information with Abbott until its internal review is completed, said Jeff Jonas, a portfolio manager at Gabelli & Co.

“I don’t think Alere will give them that full access until the restatement is complete and everything is pristine,” Jonas said. “Alere still insists it’s not material and only related to the timing of revenue, but the longer this drags on the less credibility they have.”

Abbott’s agreement to buy Alere was announced on Feb. 1, without a specific closing date. Alere subsequently said it would delay filing its 10-K report with U.S. securities regulators and said in March that it had been subpoenaed by the Department of Justice over sales practices and dealings in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

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