First Quarter Currency Woes

Growth for major publicly held instrument and laboratory product businesses stalled in the calendar year first quarter due to glaring currency headwinds and delayed government spending in Japan. For the seven US businesses whose financial results are profiled on page 9, sales contracted 1.8%, as currency and divestments reduced growth by 6.9% and 0.5%, respectively. Organic sales advanced 5.6%, led by significant sequencing growth from Illumina and strong demand from US pharmaceutical markets. Excluding Illumina, first quarter sales for the six businesses fell 4.8% but grew 2.9% organically. Besides Illumina’s strong double-digit revenue growth, Waters was the only company in the table to increase sales, which climbed 6.9%. Divestments and currency resulted in revenue declines for Bruker Scientific Instruments (BSI) and pro forma Thermo Fisher Scientific Life Science Solutions. Currency also erased revenue growth for Bio-Rad Laboratories Life Sciences, and Agilent.

Pharmaceutical and biotech sales were particularly strong for Agilent and Waters, for which market sales climbed in double digits excluding currency. Agilent reported a broad-based recovery, including strong demand from large pharmaceutical companies. Thermo recorded strong mid-single-digit growth from pharmaceutical and biotechnology markets and PerkinElmer sustained healthy growth.

Academic and government sales were mixed. Waters reported high-single-digit growth in the US and Europe, while PerkinElmer expressed improvements and Bruker BSI recorded positive academic demand within the AXS division. However, Agilent had a double-digit decline, or a 2% dip excluding currency, as a result of timing of orders and weakness in Japan. Thermo, which reported a 3% decline in academic and government sales, was also impacted by Japan as well as soft demand in Europe.

Applied markets were also mixed as Thermo and Agilent reported positive demand for food and environmental applications in China. PerkinElmer also recorded positive environmental sales in China but slowing demand for food testing products. Industrial markets were mostly weak as Thermo and Bruker reported softness due to commodity prices.

Geographically, US posted the strongest growth for Agilent and Waters, for which sales grew double digits. Asia Pacific sales outside of Japan were strong for Illumina, Thermo and Waters, especially in China. All companies recorded a decline in Japan due to currency, timing of Japanese government spending and a strong year-over-year comparison. Agilent recorded a double-digit decline in Japan on both a reported and organic basis.

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