Less than two years after going public, Mountain View DNA-sequencing startup Complete Genomics agreed to an acquisition offer from a Chinese company Monday that values the firm at about one-third of the valuation received in its initial public offering.
Complete Genomics, which has sought to offer full DNA sequencing for less than $1,000 apiece, announced it has agreed to sell the company to BGI-Shenzhen for $3.15 a share in cash, for a total of about $117.6 million.
"We believe the transaction with BGI represents the best outcome for our stockholders, offering them liquidity and a premium value," Dr. Clifford Reid, chairman and CEO of Complete Genomics, said in a news release. Later, he added, "The combination of the companies' resources provides an opportunity to accelerate our vision of providing researchers and physicians with the genomic information needed to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancers and other genetic diseases."
Complete Genomics sold 6 million shares at $9 apiece in a November 2010 IPO, less than the $12 to $14 it originally hoped to receive. Since then, the company has faced difficulties, with the stock falling as low as $1.57 a share and the company laying off 20 percent of its workers in June, when it announced it was exploring "strategic alternatives" because of dwindling cash reserves.
The purchase price reflects a 54 percent premium over the company's stock price on the day it announced it was laying off employees
Complete Genomics is among a group of Silicon Valley startups at the cutting edge of DNA research -- an endeavor that promises to advance human health while also playing a role in agriculture and biofuel development. Complete Genomics' proprietary, assembly-line-like laboratory operation began sequencing human genomes in 2009, and the company's goal was to bring down the price of the procedure, which was about $500 million for one genome when the process was first successfully performed more than a decade ago.
The expense has been an obstacle for researchers who are trying to decode patterns that correspond to maladies known to have genetic roots. Driving down the cost -- the central mission of Complete Genomics' technology and business model -- has been critical to performing large studies.
BGI works in the same field, and hopes that the acquisition -- which it plans to perform through a U.S. subsidiary -- will allow Complete Genomics to continue its mission.
"Complete has developed a proprietary whole human genome sequencing technology that, together with other sequencing platforms used by BGI, will fit well with our research and business requirements and position Complete to become an even more successful global innovator," BGI CEO Wang Jun said in Monday's news release.
If the acquisition is successful, Complete Genomics will remain based in Mountain View and continue to operate as a separate entity, the companies announced.
Mercury News staff archives contributed to this report. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/mercbizbreak.