In 2011, a number of major mergers and acquisitions considerably changed the landscape of the global medtech market. The most interesting deal of the year was made by pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, which has indicated its intent to acquire Synthes this deal is so interesting, in fact, that it is still under antitrust review by the European Commission. This is not at all surprising if Synthes is merged with Johnson & Johnson subsidiary DePuy, the combined company would hold a substantial position in many key orthopedic segments. One of the prime examples is the US trauma device market, where Synthes held approximately 40% of the market compared to DePuy's more meager 7%. By allowing DePuy access to Synthes substantial product portfolio, Johnson & Johnson gains access to nearly half of all revenues generated in this large and lucrative market. Additionally, in general, Synthes orthopedic device portfolio complements DePuy's well; while DePuy holds considerable position in the reconstructive joint implant markets, Synthes performs well in markets such as trauma devices, craniomaxillofacial devices, and power tools. The final decision on this acquisition is expected in April 2012.

The other major medtech companies also got in on the action. Stryker acquired Orthovita (an orthopedic biomaterials company), Concentric Medical (a neurovascular device company), and Memometal Technologies (a small-joint reconstructive implant company). Medtronic also went on an acquisition binge, grabbing Ardian (an ablation catheter company), Salient Surgical Technologies (a surgical hemostat company), and PEAK Surgical (an endoscopic device company). Boston Scientific snapped up Atritech (an atrial fibrillation treatment device company), S. I. Therapies (a cardiac catheter company), ReVascular Therapeutics (a peripheral vascular device company), and Intelect Medical (a neurostimulation device company). In the endoscopy space, Endo Pharmaceuticals acquired American Medical Systems, while Hologic claimed Microsulis Medical and Interlace Medical. Covidien recently made it on the list as well by announcing its intention to buy BARRX, another endoscopic device company.

The dental market also saw substantial shifts with a landmark move by DENTSPLY to acquire Astra Tech, the medical device division of pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. This move will substantially strengthen the company's position in the global dental implant market by approximately doubling its revenues in a space where both DENTSPLY and Astra Tech can count themselves among the top five competitors; this will create a substantial threat to the top three dental implant competitors Straumann, Nobel Biocare, and BIOMET 3i. This move does, however, also provide DENTSPLY with Astra Tech's existing urological device portfolio, which represents a major diversification for the company. It will be interesting to see if this division is eventually spun off.

Another interesting trend was the acquisition of several US companies by Japanese competitors such as Terumo Medical, Sekisui Chemical, Olympus, and Sony. Several private equity firms also acquired medtech companies and larger medical device companies swooped in to rescue smaller firms with promising technologies but little capital.

Will this acquisition frenzy continue in 2012? There may be some companies to watch; rumour has it that both Johnson & Johnson and Stryker have their eye on orthopedic company Smith & Nephew. AtriCure is a smaller company that has shown potential in treating atrial fibrillation and therefore might represent a target for cardiovascular device companies. There are, however, relatively few large medtech companies left as potential acquisition targets. Time will tell!

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