December 17, 2019 / 9:18 PM / 2 months ago

FTC files complaint to block Illumina from buying PacBio

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Trade Commission has filed a complaint aimed at stopping Illumina Inc (ILMN.O) from purchasing Pacific Biosciences of California (PACB.O), the agency said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: The offices of gene sequencing company Illumina Inc are shown in San Diego, California January 11, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Shares of PacBio fell about 7.5 percent in after-hours trading.

The agency said in a statement that it had filed the complaint because of concern that Illumina wanted the deal in order to prevent PacBio from developing into a competitor in the market for next-generation DNA sequencing.

The deal was valued at $1.2 billion when it was announced in November 2018. Neither Illumina nor PacBio responded immediately to requests for comment.

Gene sequencing is a method to analyze the genome, and among other uses, can help identify inherited disorders and markers of disease progression.

The commission, which is made up of three Republicans and two Democrats, voted 5-0 to file a complaint with an FTC administrative law judge to argue that Illumina’s purchase of PacBio, an up-and-coming rival, is an effort to unlawfully maintain its DNA sequencing systems monopoly.

“When a monopolist buys a potential rival, it can harm competition,” said Gail Levine, deputy director of the FTC Bureau of Competition. “These deals help monopolists maintain power. That’s why we’re challenging this acquisition.”

The FTC said it also authorized the filing of federal court actions to request a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction if needed to prevent the companies from closing the deal.

The FTC said PacBio had made advances in recent years that made its analyses more accurate and less expensive.

“Customers have already switched some sequencing volume from Illumina to PacBio for certain use cases and applications, and PacBio is poised to take increasing sequencing volume from Illumina in the future,” the FTC said in a statement.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Sandra Maler and Leslie Adler

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