Let’s be honest – the headlining acquisition of Covidien by Medtronic may go down as the most boring deal of 2014, unless of course you are an international tax accountant. The swirling buzzwords are inversion, offshore cash, G&A, and hospital contracts. Please wake me up when it’s over. Yet it may be the unintended consequences of this deal that are the real story, in particular the implications for med tech innovators. The real story won’t really be known for months or even years, despite Omar Ishrak’s reassuring pronouncements that the merger will “accelerate” investments in R&D.
We at S2N decided an old-fashioned pro-con debate was in order. Question: Is the big fat marriage of MDT and COV good for Innovation? Tim took the Con position and Amy the Pro stance. Here’s blow by blow:
Cash for innovation or cash for shareholders?
Amy: You need a lot of cash to invest in disruptive innovation, and the combined “Medvidien” will be swimming in it. It’s a perfect match for gaining efficiencies in mature product categories to free up cash for real technological advances.
Tim: This deal is a perfect example of how the big companies are throwing in the towel on innovation and focusing on the bottom line. The extra cash will all go back to shareholders, which is great for them but I’m not sure how that helps innovation.
Temporary deal disruption or big investment hiatus?
Tim: Good luck getting anything done with any division of MDT or COV for the next 3 years while management is completely focused on realizing those promised “synergies”. They will have a good, long run of earnings growth that will take pressure off top-line growth for a while.
Amy: Really Tim, do you think they can afford to turn off the growth-oriented deal flow for that long? Sure, there might be a short-term disruption to early stage investments from the distraction of the merger, but pretty quickly they are going to have to put that cash to work to grow sales. Can’t cost cut your way to success forever!
Spawning of new start-ups or lifestyles of the rich and famous?
Amy: Think of all the med-tech superstars who will make big coin on the deal and then be released to the wild. Some of that money and expertise will start finding it’s way back into the emerging med-tech ecosystem.
Tim: Wishful thinking, Amy. Med-tech veterans don’t have a rich history of aggressive angel funding. Mostly likely the deal will help the yacht and island markets more than med tech start-ups.
One less acquirer in the pool or just fatter acquirers?
Tim: The number of big-time med tech acquirers is pretty small as it is, and it just got one smaller. Negotiations with the new entity will be tougher, too, because there will be less deal competition.
Amy: There is so little overlap in the business units of the two companies, except for endovascular, that it really doesn’t change the picture for most emerging med techs. The acquirer just got a bigger wallet.
Helpful scale or focus elsewhere?
Tim: After tax minimization, the other main drivers of this deal are negotiating power with hospitals and scale to sell in emerging markets. That’s where they see their growth coming from in the next couple of years. Innovation is on the back burner.
Amy: Those more effective hospital and emerging markets sales channels will benefit innovative technologies, not just mature ones, and they will need more products to pull through those channels.