Shares in Whatman jumped nearly 10% yesterday after GE Healthcare confirmed plans to buy the group in an all-cash deal for 270 pence a share, valuing the UK firm at around £363 million.

GE Healthcare is a $17-billion unit of US giant General Electric Company, and the move signals the group’s intent to gain a stronger foothold in the healthcare sector. Taking Whatman - which generated sales of just under £120 million last year - under its wing should add substantial ballast to the group’s life sciences revenues.

“Life Sciences is a key area of growth for GE Healthcare and expanding our skill base and product offerings in this area supports our vision of helping our customers to diagnose and treat disease earlier,” said chief executive Joe Hogan.

The companies claim that Whatman’s broad product offering of filters and membranes for laboratory, research, life sciences and medical technology will slot in nicely alongside GE Healthcare’s Life Sciences business, which provides technologies for cellular and protein science research as well as tools for making certain biopharmaceuticals, including vaccines.

New opportunities
Whatman CEO Kieran Murphy, added that his company “will benefit significantly from the business process expertise within GE Healthcare”, and that “Whatman’s product opportunities within the pharmaceutical, diagnostic and forensics markets will have a greater chance of success within the larger group”.

The deal is still subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals, but providing all goes to plan the transaction is expected to close during the second quarter.