Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. (Bio-Rad), a in vitro diagnostics company, has reported net sales of $1.76 billion for the full year of 2008, up 20%, compared with the net sales of $1.46 billion in the previous year-end. It has reported a net income of $89.5 million, or $3.25 per diluted share, for the full year of 2008, compared with net income of $93.0 million, or $3.41 per diluted share, in the previous year-end.

Fourth-quarter reported revenues were $448.0 million, down 2.6% compared to $459.7 million reported for the fourth quarter of 2007. On a currency-neutral basis, quarterly revenues increased 3.0% compared to the same period last year. This increase was due primarily to organic growth across a wide range of products in Bio Rad’s two main areas, Life Science and Clinical Diagnostics. Fourth-quarter gross margin was 55.1% compared to 50.8% during the same quarter last year. This improvement was a result of product mix with a heavier emphasis on consumables as well as the elimination of some low margin products. The lower margin in the prior-year quarter reflected the impact of the DiaMed acquisition.

The company reported a net loss for the fourth quarter of $8.2 million compared to net income of $12.4 million during the fourth quarter last year. These results reflect non-cash impairment charges of $35.0 million, which include charges of $28.8 million for the impairment of goodwill and purchased intangibles and $6.2 million for impairment of investments. Additionally, income for the quarter was impacted by $5.2 million in foreign exchange loss due to significant currency fluctuations during the quarter. The extraordinarily high tax rate for the fourth quarter was due primarily to the nondeductible write-off of goodwill and the impairment of investments which did not result in a benefit for tax purposes. Fourth-quarter diluted loss per share from operations was $0.30 compared to diluted earnings of $0.45 per share during the same period last year.

Full-year gross margin was 54.6% compared to last year’s figure of 54.2%. Margins were bolstered by better manufacturing efficiency coupled with a favorable product mix.

“We are pleased with the results of 2008. It was another successful year for Bio-Rad despite weakening of the capital equipment market. During the year we made progress on expanding our core business as well as integrating DiaMed into our organization,” said Norman Schwartz, Bio-Rad president and chief executive officer. “We, like others, are approaching 2009 with caution. The economic environment could make growth for this year challenging; nevertheless, we expect it to be another year of laying the groundwork for long-term success.”

2008 Full Year Highlights

Full-year company sales grew by 20.8% to $1,764.4 million.

Year-over-year net income was $89.5 million, down 3.7% compared to $93.0 million reported in 2007. This reduction was primarily due to non-cash impairments taken in the fourth quarter of 2008.

During the first quarter, the Life Science group began shipping its next generation polymerase chain reaction (PCR) instruments, the new 1000-series thermal cycling and CFX Real Time platforms.

In January, the Clinical Diagnostics group announced the introduction to the U.S. market of CandiSelect 4, a chromogenic medium used for the selective isolation of several forms of Candida, a genus of yeasts that can cause numerous infections in humans and animals.

In February, the company announced the launch of the first and only fully-automated, random access multiplex test system for autoimmune systemic vasculitis testing. The BioPlex 2200 Vasculitis kit is for use on the BioPlex 2200 system, a platform that employs multiplexing technology to analyze multiple disease markers from a single patient sample.

In July, Bio-Rad announced FDA clearance for faster interpretation time of its existing MRSASelect test, a chromogenic medium that is used for the rapid screening of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). With high sensitivity and specificity as well as rapid and direct identification, the MRSASelect test can now identify MRSA carriers in as little as 18 hours.

In September, the Clinical Diagnostics division launched the BioPlex 2200 Syphilis IgM kit in Europe. The new test detects IgM class antibodies to a bacterium that causes syphilis.

In December, the company purchased DiaMed GB Ltd, the exclusive distributor of DiaMed products in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland), and DiaMed Fennica Oy, the exclusive distributor of DiaMed products in Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The total cash purchase price of these acquisitions was approximately $17 million.

Also in December, Bio-Rad purchased certain assets of SafePath Laboratories, LLC’s food diagnostics business. The terms of the purchase were not disclosed. With the purchase of SafePath.s high performance serological immunoassay test kits for Trichinella, Toxoplasma and Salmonella pathogens, Bio-Rad expands its food diagnostics product line.