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J&J nears diabetes device exit with $2.1 bln LifeScan sale

A Johnson & Johnson building is shown in Irvine, California, U.S., January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Arjun Panchadar

(Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) said on Friday it was offered about $2.1 billion for its LifeScan Inc unit, which makes blood glucose monitoring products, by private equity firm Platinum Equity, another step towards exiting the diabetes device market.

Platinum has given J&J until mid-June to accept the offer to allow for consultations with overseas workers.

Sales at J&J's diabetes device business, which also includes Animas Corp and Calibra Medical Inc, have been falling since 2012 in a highly competitive market and the company said last January that it was evaluating options for the units.

J&J said in October it would shut down Animas, which makes insulin pumps, after failing to find a buyer. J&J spokeswoman Donna Lorenson said the strategic review of the Calibra division, which sells wearable insulin pumps, is ongoing.

LifeScan, which has headquarters in Chesterbrook, Pennsylvania, and Zug, Switzerland, sells personal blood glucose meters, testing strips, and testing systems. More than 20 million people in 90 countries use its products.

Platinum Equity said in a press release that it is currently consulting with works councils that represent employees. The offer could be finalised by mid-June, unless it is extended, and a deal is anticipated to close by the end of 2018.

The company has 2,400 employees, largely in Europe, China and the United States, Lorenson said.


ANALYSTS SAY PRICE OK

The price for LifeScan, which generated revenue of about $1.5 billion in 2017, was disappointing but fair since the unit had weighed on J&J's growth for some time, Atlantic Equities analyst Steve Chesney said.

"Obviously expectations were for a higher valuation based on earlier reports, but probably closer to reality given the state of the business," Chesney said.

Reuters had reported in January that Chinese buyers were interested in paying $3 billion to $4 billion for the companies.

Cowen analyst Joshua Jennings said in a research note that the LifeScan valuation was reasonable given that the business was declining and facing continued pricing pressure.

J&J said it factored the transaction into the 2018 earnings forecast it gave in January.

J&J shares fell 0.4 percent, or 56 cents, to $132.50 in morning trading.


(Reporting by Arjun Panchadar and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Caroline Humer in New York; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Phil Berlowitz)