South Korean billionaire Cho Young-sik’s SD Biosensor and Seoul-based private equity firm SJL Partners said Thursday that they are acquiring Nasdaq-listed diagnostics company Meridian Bioscience for $1.53 billion in cash, paving the way for SD Biosensor’s entry into the huge U.S. market f0r C0vid-19 tests.
SD Biosensor and SJL Partners said they will pay $34 a share for Meridian. That represents a 32% premium to Meridian’s closing stock price of $25.67 on March 17, when SD Biosensor and SJL Partners made their first offer. Under the agreement, SD Biosensor will own 60% of Meridian, while SJL Partners will hold 40%. Meridian said it expects the deal to close in the fourth quarter.
“We are pleased to be a family with Meridian Bioscience as a great partner for accelerating our entry into the U.S. IVD (in-vitro diagnostics) market,” said Cho, founder and chairman of SD Biosensor, in a statement. He added that Meridian’s U.S. distribution network and expertise in the country’s regulated market could enable “compelling synergies.”
Before developing Covid-19 tests, Meridian developed diagnostic test kits for other acute infectious diseases, such as food-borne illnesses, respiratory infections and others. Founded in 1977, the Cincinnati, Ohio-based life science company was the first to develop a rapid test for strep throat.
SD Biosensor’s expansion into the U.S. market comes as the company still seeks official authorization for distribution. Last January, the company voluntarily recalled its Standard Q rapid Covid-19 tests that it claimed were illegally imported into the country. And in March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers to avoid using these kits over concerns that the process provided false results.
The Suwon-based company’s international reach includes India, Singapore and Slovakia, which in December 2020 bought 13 million Covid-19 tests from SD Biosensor for its population.
SD Biosensor and its peers in South Korea were among the earliest to mass produce Covid-19 tests, as the country was the first to suffer the worst major coronavirus outbreak outside China. SD Biosensor and three other Korean companies had their first testing kits approved by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in February 2020.
On the back of its viral success, SD Biosensor listed on the Korea Exchange in July 2021, raising some $650 million and making Cho a self-made billionaire.