When you really need an answer -- fast -- toss out the crystal ball and bring in Alere. The company offers both professional and consumer diagnostic tests. Its professional diagnostic products include tests for cancers, cardiovascular disease, drugs of abuse, infectious diseases, and women's health, including pregnancy tests and fertility monitors. Alere also makes consumer diagnostics, including First Check drug tests, through a venture with Procter & Gamble. The company's branded products include Actim (early pregnancy detection), Cholestech (lipid and cholesterol testing), and Determine (HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, and syphilis detection). Acquisitive Alere was founded in 2001.
The company is organized into three segments: Professional Diagnostics, Patient Self-Testing, and Consumer Diagnostics. The Professional Diagnostics segment accounts for the lion's share of earnings and includes tests that are conducted in hospitals, labs, and medical offices, as well as at home under a medical professional's supervision. Patient Self-Testing (formerly Health Information Solutions) consists primarily of the Alere Home Monitoring lines, which support anti-coagulation management to help prevent stroke and clotting disorders.
The smaller Consumer Diagnostics business, which distributes tests to consumers through retail drug and grocery retailers, are handled through a 50/50 joint venture with Proctor & Gamble that was formed in 2007. Alere put all of its OTC pregnancy and fertility test brands into the pot and agreed to do all of the manufacturing while P&G tossed in $325 million. Operating under the name SPD Swiss Precision Diagnostics, the venture took over the marketing of such brands as Clearblue Easy, Fact Plus, and Accu-Clear.
In 2014, the company sold more than 1 billion rapid diagnostic tests; more than half of its revenue stems from products for outpatient settings.
The US accounts for more than half of Alere's sales. The company maintains its primary manufacturing sites in China, Japan, Norway, South Korea, and the US. It has secondary manufacturing facilities in parts of Europe, Australia, India, Israel, and South Africa. Alere conducts its main research and development in Germany, the UK, and the US. It maintains more than 30 distribution operations in in Asia, Europe, North America, Africa, the Caribbean, and South America.
Sales and Marketing
Alere's professional products are sold through the company's sales force, as well as through distribution networks to hospitals, laboratories, and physicians' offices. Its First Check consumer drug testing products are sold throughout the US in drugstores, grocery stores, and by mass merchants, as well as drug wholesalers.
The company markets its health management services primarily to government and commercial health plans.
Revenue, which had been increasing since 2010, took a slight dip of 1% to $2.6 billion in 2014. This was largely due to a drop in sales of flu-related products and mail-order diabetes products. The divestitures of Bionote and Spinreact also impacted earnings that year. However, Alere Home Monitoring sales rose, and the introduction of the Clearblue Advanced Pregnancy Test with Weeks Estimator product boosted revenue.
The company returned to profitability in 2014, after reporting a losses for four years. Decreases in R&D and sales and marketing expenses helped contribute to the year's net income of $9.9 million. Cash flow from operations dropped 4% to $233.8 million that year due to changes in assets such as prepaid expenses.
Alere has grown significantly through what can only be described as an acquisition rampage. Since 2003 the company has bought up consumer and professional-grade diagnostic product lines and entire companies to establish its dominance in the diagnostics market. Acquisitions brought in diagnostics for home use, point-of-care tests, drug and parasite screening products, and cholesterol and cancer diagnostics among others.
In 2013 the company was awarded a grant of up to $21.6 million and debt financing of as much as $20.6 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund the development of a tuberculosis assay. The same year it made five acquisitions and launched the first FDA-approved point-of-care HIV test to detect all sub-types of the virus.
In a turnaround from its previous efforts to diversify operations, Alere has been divesting non-core operations in order to concentrate on diagnostics, particularly in the areas of cardiometabolic disease, infectious disease, and toxicology. In 2015 the company sold its Alere Health operations (case management, condition management) to UnitedHealth Group's Optum division in a $600 million transaction. The company is using funds from that sale to repay debt (its long-term debt stands at around $3.8 billion). Other recently divested operations include health information exchange system ACS, vet business unit Bionote, and even the firm's 40% stake in diagnostic test maker Vedalab. In 2015, it sold its BBI business (which it had previously planned to spin off in an IPO) to Exponent Private Equity for $164 million, the proceeds of which it will use to further pay down debt.
Mergers and Acquisitions
In 2015 the company acquired US Diagnostics for $60 million. That purchase added drug testing devices to Alere's coffers; those operations will be part of the firm's Professional Diagnostics segment.
Alere's big buy in 2013 was Epocal, a Canadian maker of blood analysis systems, for $166 million. Other 2013 deals included Discount Diabetic in Arizona, the Medicare fee-for-service assets of Liberty Medical (diabetes testing supplies) in Florida, assets of Simplex Healthcare (home delivery of diabetes testing supplies) in Tennessee, assets Mega Medika (medical distributor) in Indonesia, 75% interest in Pantech Proprietary Limited (rapid diagnostic tests) in South Africa, and 51% of Cardio Selfcare (healthcare software) in the Netherlands. These smaller deals totaled about $58 million.