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O.C. BUSINESS PLUS | HEARD ON THE BEAT / BIOTECHNOLOGY

Beckman Is Hot and Getting Hotter

September 12, 2000|MARC BALLON | Marc Ballon covers the biomedical and biotechnology industry for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-7439 and at marc.ballon@latimes.com

Beckman Coulter Inc., the Fullerton manufacturer of laboratory instruments systems and products, is on a roll.

On Friday, the stock closed at $81.69 on New York Stock Exchange trading, an all-time high, before slipping Monday to $79.75. Company shares have appreciated by nearly 57% since January, fueled by growing profits, strong sales and innovative products under development.

In the second quarter, for instance, Beckman earnings rose 25% as sales climbed 5%. The company expects profits to increase 13% to 15% for the year. Beckman's products that simplify and automate genomic research and drug discovery have been particularly hot. In late July, Beckman said it has developed reagents that could speed the search for vaccines for cancer and other diseases.

Wall Street types have reacted well to the company's recent showing. In early September, Lehman Brothers analyst David Gruber raised Beckman's target price to $85 from $72 per share. Another factor behind his upgrade, he said, is a "plausible" rumor in the investment community that health care giant Abbott Laboratories might acquire Beckman for $100 per share. BusinessWeek first reported the takeover rumor Sept. 1.

Neither Beckman nor Abbott would comment.

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