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Bio-Rad Laboratories Weathers Supply Chain, Biopharma Woes as Q4 Revenues Dip 7 Percent


NEW YORK – Bio-Rad Laboratories is seeing light at the end of the tunnel following approximately seven quarters of strain from supply chain issues compounded by a funding squeeze in the biopharma industry, executives said during a call recapping the company's fourth quarter and full-year 2023 earnings on Thursday after the close of the market.

Having now fully transitioned clinical instrument manufacturing from France to Singapore, the firm expects its inventory to normalize by the second half of the year, which could potentially coincide with a bounce back in the currently depressed biopharma space.

Global shortages in electronics, plastics, and raw materials began plaguing the industry during the pandemic, impacting Bio-Rad starting in the second quarter of 2021. However, while other firms were able to eventually push through supply chain constraints, Bio-Rad was also on the cusp of moving manufacturing to Asia and was also impacted by biopharma softness. This led to a series of announcements lowering the firm's annual guidance, although it continued to assert the soundness of its longer-term outlook.

During Thursday's earnings call, Bio-Rad Chief Operating Officer Andrew Last said the company is "now past our supply chain challenges and finished the quarter with a more normalized year-end backlog."

Inventory levels remained high in the quarter and similar to Q3, Last said, attributing this to transitory impacts of the manufacturing transfer combined with lower demand impacting inventory consumption. However, the firm continued to exercise tight cost control in the quarter, he added, including an approximately $5.1 million decline in SG&A expenses which encompassed lower employee-related costs due to reduced incentive compensation accruals.

Bio-Rad is expecting "a more normalized year for customer demand" in its clinical diagnostics business, Last said. For its life science business, the firm prognosticates revenues to continue declining in the first half of the year, "due to ongoing softness in biopharma and biotech and prior-year compares," Last said, but to rise in the second half of the year, "as funding improves along with stabilization in the broader biopharma market."

On the call, Bio-Rad CEO Norman Schwartz also projected that 2024 will be "certainly very different to a normal year," with the firm's revenues "a bit more back-end loaded than usual based on the anticipated recovery in biotech and biopharma." As a result, Bio-Rad expects "soft growth and operating margins in the first half of the year, particularly in the first quarter, with improvements in the second half, in line with the market recovery and revenue normalization," he added.

Financial results

For the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2023, Bio-Rad reported a 7 percent decline in revenues to $681.2 million from $730.3 million a year ago. On a currency-neutral basis, revenues declined approximately 8 percent. On average, analysts had expected revenues of $685.1 million for the quarter.

The firm's Q4 life science segment sales dropped 19 percent year over year to $291.1 million, or 20 percent on a currency-neutral basis. Bio-Rad said the broad-based decline was due to lower sales of Droplet Digital PCR (ddPCR), qPCR, and western blotting products. Excluding COVID-related sales, Q4 revenues decreased by 17 percent over the prior-year period.

The firm's clinical diagnostics segment revenues increased approximately 5 percent year over year to $389.0 million. On a currency-neutral basis, segment sales increased 4 percent and also increased approximately 4 percent excluding COVID-related sales.

Bio-Rad's net income for the quarter was $349.7 million, or $12.14 per share, compared to a net income of $827.7 million, or $27.78 per share, in the year-ago period. On a non-GAAP basis, Q4 EPS was $3.10, above analysts' average expectation of $2.82.

For full-year 2023, Bio-Rad's revenues were down 5 percent to $2.67 billion from $2.80 billion in 2022, in line with the consensus Wall Street estimate of $2.68 billion. On a currency-neutral basis, full-year revenues declined 4 percent.

Bio-Rad said that it had approximately $4 million in COVID-related sales in the year, compared to $109 million in 2022. Excluding COVID-related sales, revenues declined a fraction of a percent on a currency-neutral basis.

Life science segment sales for 2023 were $1.18 billion in 2023, which the firm said was an increase of 12 percent over 2022. Excluding COVID, revenues declined 5 percent, attributed to lower sales of process chromatography, qPCR, and western blotting products.

For the ddPCR business, specifically, the franchise had a soft 2023, with sales flat when excluding COVID, as compared to the high growth it had previously been experiencing in biotech and biopharma, Last said on the call.

However, Simon May, president of Bio-Rad's life science group, said on the call that the firm is past its backlog burn-down for ddPCR, adding that "the slate's pretty clean now," and "there's certainly a lot of tentatively encouraging data starting to emerge as we look at our customer base."

The firm expects the ddPCR business to recover due in part to planned new product introductions and the anticipated biopharma market recovery, May also said, noting that "they’re both 'when,' not 'if' events, so for the full year, I think we're looking at growth in digital PCR."

Last also said Bio-Rad remains "very positive on maintaining our leading market share in the markets we serve," noting that the firm is looking forward to the impact of the QX Continuum launch as it expands its focus on the lower-end market later this year.

Full-year clinical diagnostics revenues were $1.49 billion, up 3 percent over 2022, Bio-Rad said, and also up 3 percent on a currency-neutral basis.

Company highlights in 2023 included advancing its minimal residual disease (MRD) research through industry collaborations leveraging its QX600 Droplet Digital PCR System and introducing a ddPCR Microsatellite Instability (MSI) Kit and supporting software for oncology applications including cancer tissue and plasma samples. The firm also continued to expand libraries of StarBright dyes for flow cytometry as well as a portfolio of antibodies for the development of bioanalytical assays.

In 2023, Bio-Rad also introduced the CFX Opus Deepwell Dx Real-Time PCR System, launched the PTC Tempo 96 and PTC Tempo Deepwell Thermal Cyclers, introduced the IH-500 NEXT fully automated blood typing system, and partnered with Element Biosciences to deliver an RNA sequencing workflow. Bio-Rad also settled a digital PCR-related patent dispute with Qiagen in the year.

Bio-Rad reported a full-year net loss of $637.3 million, or $21.82 per share, compared to a net loss of $3.63 billion, or $121.79 per share, in 2022. Net loss amounts for full-year 2023 and 2022 were primarily impacted by the recognition of changes in the fair market value of equity securities related to the holdings of the company's investment in Sartorius AG.

Bio-Rad exited 2023 with $403.8 million in cash and cash equivalents and $1.21 billion in short-term investments.

The company anticipates non-GAAP currency-neutral revenue growth of approximately 1 percent to 2.5 percent for 2024.

In early morning trading on the NYSE, Bio-Rad shares were up 9 percent to $358.59.