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Thatcher's bargain will be sold to US for pounds 5.7bn.

Byline: By Graeme Evans

Medical imaging firm Amersham - the former Government laboratory privatised in 1982 - has agreed to be taken over by US conglomerate GE in a pounds 5.7bn deal.

Amersham's directors have agreed to the all-share offer in one of the biggest deals seen on the London market this year.

The FTSE 100 Index company is a specialist in products for disease detection and medical research, particularly those used in x-rays, while GE is the world's largest maker of medical scanning devices.

The offer price of 800p a share represents a premium of more than 45pc on the Amersham share price before bid speculation earlier this week. GE said Amersham would add new technology platforms to build on work by its own GE Medical business in diagnostic imaging and healthcare services.

Amersham was formerly The Radiochemical Centre before becoming the Thatcher Government's first privatisation. In 1997, Amersham International, as it was then called, merged with Norwegian-owned Nycomed and Pharmacia Biotech of Sweden to create today's group.

Amersham employs more than 10,000 people worldwide and generated sales of pounds 1.6bn in 2002. Cost savings worth pounds 180m to pounds 240m are expected by the end of the third year of the tie-up, although it is not thought to involve substantial job losses.

Amersham chief executive Sir William Castell will head the new company, GE Healthcare Technologies.

GE chief executive Jeffrey Immelt said: "GE and Amersham will be an exciting combination of talents, businesses and technologies."

Shares, which surged 16pc on Thursday on the announcement of a bid approach, gained another 15pc to 756p yesterday.

Analysts said the difference between the bid and share price reflected the six-month wait for regulatory approval. Hilary Cook, of Barclays Stockbrokers, said: "As far as private investors are concerned, this is a very attractive bid. It's a big takeover of a Footsie company - something we haven't seen much of lately."

More than half Amersham's sales are in its health division, which develops x-ray agents for detection and management of diseases. Products include Visipaque, which helps show up features such as veins in x-rays.

There is also a protein separations business and a discovery systems arm which contributes to work in drug discovery and research.

Sir William said: "We will have the competencies, the marketing reach and the financial resources to bring disease prediction, diagnosis and personalised treatment into the mainstream of medical practice."
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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 11, 2003
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