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City laboratories will be at heart of new company

TWO Dundee healthcare laboratories, including those belonging to former university spin-out Shield Diagnostics, are to form the heart of a new listed company BBI Diagnostics Group which is to be floated by American giant Alere.

Some 200 of Cardiff-headquarted BBI's 600 staff will be based in the Scottish city.

Many are located at the Axis-Shield Diagnostics laboratory immunoassay business which provides diagnostics tests for a range of health conditions including cardiovascular ailments and diabetes.

Others work for BBI Solutions, whose customers for their reagents include their nearby colleagues at Axis-Shield.

John Brown, a prominent figure in the Scottish life sciences scene, has been appointed chairman of BBI Diagnostics, and tasked with overseeing its planned admission to the stock market next month.

The listing comes three years after Alere bought Axis-Shield for £235 million following a prolonged takeover tussle. Axis-Shield at that time had joint headquarters in Dundee and Oslo having been formed from the 1999 merger of Norway's Axis Biochemicals and Dundee University spin-out Shield Diagnostics.

Alere, which bought a number of businesses over a near decade-long acquisition drive, is seeking to float 25 per cent of BBI in an effort to pay down debt and focus on its core operations.

However, insiders point to its retention of 75 per cent as a sign of its faith in the long-term prospects for the business, which has operations located as far afield as Korea.

BBI Diagnostics makes a range of diagnostics products, including women's health products under the Balance Activ brand and the Clearblue range of pregnancy tests.

It is seeking to attract investors with a business case that rests on increasing use by customers of diagnostic tests bought from high street chemists.

Shares are being offered to institutional investors but the pricing of the offer has not been confirmed.

Dr Brown said: "BBI Diagnostics' strong customer relationships and market positioning, broad range of products and services, and track record of growth provides investors with an attractive and diversified investment opportunity in the diagnostics market."

BBI's had revenue of £89.6 million for the 2013 financial year, up 19.7 per cent on the previous 12 months.

Adjusted earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation came in at £26.7m.

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