Top Executives Share Their Views

At this year’s Pittcon, IBO sat down with executives from four major analytical instrument providers to discuss current market conditions and strategies. Each executive acknowledged that this was a difficult time for the instrument market. As Dr. Rohit Khanna, vice president of Worldwide Marketing for the Waters Division of Waters Corporation, stated at the company’s press conference: “There is an added sense of urgency in the marketplace today.”

However, each company emphasized areas of growth for instrument sales. Dr. Khanna was surprised by the types of techniques for which growth is still evident: “I would have thought when companies’ budgets are tight, the high-end would be the first place [to cut]. Exactly the opposite: the interest is in mass spec products, the high-end solutions. The ACQUITY, which is one of the more expensive LCs on the market, continues to be extremely strong.”

Mike McMullen, vice president and general manager of Agilent’s Chemical Analysis Solutions Unit, part of the Bio-Analytical Measurement business (BAM), told IBO that the slowdown mostly affected GC sales, which are driven by replacement purchases. “Things like high-end mass spec, GC/MS triple quad, LC/MS triple quad, LC/Q-TOF—those are still fairly robust. . . . Pharma is still buying those techniques, they’re just not buying basic products, [such as] LCs and GCs.”

Dr. Ian Jardine, vice president of Global Research and Development for Thermo Fisher Scientific, emphasized the stable sales provided by the company’s Fisher Scientific business. “As long as large numbers of researchers aren’t laid off, they have to work everyday and they have to continue to buy consumables and reagents, otherwise they’re not productive,” he explained.

Commenting on the demand for capital equipment, which makes up 40% of Thermo Fisher Scientific’s revenues, he told IBO, “it’s very mixed. It really depends on the market space that we’re selling into. . . . The biomedical area in general, in terms of clinical, government research [and] academic research, seems to be doing ok. I think that has a lot to do with their budget cycles.”

Sandra Rasmussen, vice president of Applied Analytix for PerkinElmer Life and Analytical Sciences (LAS), noted PerkinElmer’s ability to adapt to the current economic environment. “We’re not entirely recession proof by any means, but we do have the ability to shift our focus with plans that address areas where there is going to be money,” she explained.

Stimulus funding worldwide is one factor about which all four companies are optimistic. “The stimulus packages are certainly going to help in a lot of the industries that we serve,” stated Ms. Rasmussen. “Some of the stimulus, and the really dramatic increase in NIH funding, has all of a sudden started to show up,” commented Dr. Khanna. “They’re going to invest in a very expensive system because that’s what’s being funded. . . . The request for quotes, in particular for getting [instruments with] the stimulus money or the NIH grants, is very high.”

Mr. McMullen told IBO that Agilent has also begun to get requests for quotes related to US stimulus funding. “I think it’ll help in the second half of the year in terms of business. The big hit is going to be in 2010. “

At Pittcon, each company also discussed new products and workflow solutions, as well as growing end-markets. At Agilent’s press conference, Mr. McMullen cited food safety, lab productivity, stimulus funding and China as growth drivers for the Chemical Analysis Unit. He told IBO that food safety sales are also strong in Latin America, as well as China. Chinese business is strong for environmental and even petrochemical and chemical applications.

For Waters, Dr. Khanna sees opportunities in end-user markets where the company’s market share is lower, as well as the ability to grow sales of consumables for superfluid chromatography related to Waters’s acquisition of Thar Instruments (see IBO 2/15/09). However, as he explained at the company’s press conference, “pharma continues to be a key focus,” stating that “while the challenges for the pharmaceutical industry have changed, they have not gone away.”

PerkinElmer’s EcoAnalytix solutions targets eight markets, including the fast-growing food safety, consumer product safety and renewable energy markets, with multipoint solutions. Talking with IBO, PerkinElmer executives highlighted recent changes in the Analytical business. “PerkinElmer is a much more external company now, much more able, capable and willing to seek partnerships,” said Martin Long, vice president of Materials Characterization. At Pittcon, the company announced partnerships with Alpha Omega, Innov-X and Teledyne Tekmar as part of its effort to provide total solutions to the end-user. PerkinElmer is also working with VWR in North America, Canada, US and Mexico.

Also detailing changes at his company was Mr. McMullen. Asked about the Agilent BAM’s Materials Science business unit, he explained that Agilent’s particle sizing business is now part of its Chemical Analysis unit. “The economy started slowing down pretty rapidly,” he stated. “We wanted to stay in these businesses, but we thought ‘we really shouldn’t have this really heavy overhead structure on top of that for start-up businesses.’” The microscopy business has moved into the Electronic Measurement division.

New products were also highlighted by the executives. These products included Agilent’s 7000A GC/MS Triple Quadrupole System (see IBO 6/15/08), which began shipping last month, and the company’s entry-level GC 7820, which was introduced in China on March 1. Mr. Mullen said the GC 7820 will eventually be sold in Europe as well.

PerkinElmer discussed the breadth of its new products at Pittcon, which include the AAnalyst (see page 7), the Flexar LC (see page 7) and differential scanning calorimeters (see page 11). Among the products showcased by Waters were the Xevo QTOF MS, introduced in January (see IBO 2/15/09), which offers improvements in speed, consistency, sensitivity and usability, according to the company.

New MS systems were also on display at Pittcon from Thermo Fisher Scientific. The Thermo Scientific Exactive LC/MS (see IBO 6/15/08) is a further extension of the company’s Orbitrap technology, but at a lower price point. Dr. Jardine highlighted the Exactive’s advantage in terms of compound identification and precise quantification. ”In analytical science, in general, one of the things that often happens is when technologies transition from qualitative analysis to become quantitative, the market tends to expand quite rapidly,” he explained, citing LC and triple quadrupole MS as examples.

He expects the Exactive to have the same effect. “We really believe it will take accurate mass and high resolution with quantitation into the routine market.” Dr. Jardine also stressed the importance of the Exactive and other new products for Thermo, stating “a vibrant new product pipeline is really what drives growth.”

< | >