In a pandemic year that has seen so many New Zealand tech firms bought by offshore rivals, Auckland BioSciences (ABS) has bucked the trend by acquiring Australia's CellSera.
ABS manufactures and exports New Zealand-made serum and plasma, derived from the blood of cows, pigs and sheep, sourced from meat processing plants around NZ.
Animal serum is a key ingredient for cell culture in bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing and is used in medical research and in the manufacture of human and veterinary products such as vaccines and other biological preparations, ABS says.
The global cell culture market is expected to reach US$36 billion by 2027, according to one market researcher.
ABS managing director John Chang told the Herald he could not put an exact price on the deal but that it was "close to eight figures", implying his firm paid nearly $10m to acquire its Australian rival.
Chang - who holds more than 80 per cent of ABS shares - said the combined ABS-CellSera operation will have annual revenue of $40m.
ABS raised $6.5 million for expansion earlier this month, in a capital raising exercise backed by the Paykel family trust (which now holds a 2.5 per cent stake), Canterbury investor Bill Lee, and investor Vaughan Darby through a newly created vehicle called Genesis Lifescience Investments, which now holds a 3.7 per cent stake. ABS also raised debt financing from BNZ.
Former F&P Appliances chief executive Gary Paykel and Darby were formerly on an ABS advisory board. With the $6.5m raise, they have joined the board, with Paykel becoming chair.
With its reputation for high levels of purity Chang says serum made in Australasia sells for US$1000 per litre - a premium on the US$300 for serum from South America.
The CellSera deal announced overnight is the latest step in a growth story that has seen ABS go from being based in a shipping container at an Auckland abattoir six years ago to having more than 40 staff, with a new high-tech facility about to open in Rosedale.
The new site, on Auckland's North Shore, will expand its production of high-value serum, which will complement its Christchurch facility, opened last year, that will continue to focus on raw and semi-processed serum.
CellSera's plant in Rutherford, New South Wales will continue its focus on high-value product.
"The company's vision to achieve a leadership position in Asia is well underway, and we expect to see further breakthroughs into North America and EU nation markets in 2022," Paykel said in a statement.
ABS was founded by Chang in 2013.
Chang, who gained a PhD after his studies into infectious diseases at the University of Sydney's medical school, formerly held roles with Canterbury University and AUT's research commercialisation arms.
ABS won the Best Emerging Business category at the 2018 New Zealand Trade & Enterprise Awards.
"Auckland BioSciences has gained a solid foothold on the international stage through the consistently high quality of its products, its customer-centric approach to business, and its strong partnerships in both New Zealand and abroad," NZTE judges said.