Staff Writer

BOGOTA, Colombia — The medical imaging and information technologies company GE Healthcare (Chalfont, UK) will acquire General Medica de Colombia (Gemedco; Bogota, Colombia), its main distributor in the Latin American country.

"This acquisition is fully aligned with our business strategy to invest more in the region and to be closer to our customers," said Daurio Speranzini Jr., president of GE Healthcare in Latin America in a release. The goal, he said, is for GE to better understand customer expectations in regards to technologies and be able to adress the specific needs of the market.

GE reported the deal on Thursday.

"Colombia is undoubtedly one of the most important markets for our company in Latin America and with this initiative we are reinforcing our commitment to service providers and local health patients," Speranzini said.

Meanwhile, Fabiola Sojet, president and CEO of GE Colombia highlighted that this deal aims to improve patient care.

"This is a key market and we expect this investment will result in a significant contribution to Colombians, [to provide them with] high quality products and technology and to improve the care of the patients," she said.

GE Healthcare´s decision to acquire one of its distributors was triggered in great part by the positive economic conditions in the country.

"Motivated by economic stability and growth potential of both the local economy and the market for healthcare, General Electric has decided to go one step further and consolidate its presence as a local and sustainable ally in the market for the Colombian health sector," the company said.

Speranzini noted that ongoing improvements to the country's health care system provide an incentive for companies to invest and facilitate access.

"The new Colombian health system has shown great success providing access to people and this is fully aligned with our global strategy called 'healthymagination', which focuses on improving access to healthcare quality to more people, with reduced costs," he said.

Neither GE Healthcare nor Gemedco disclosed the amount of the deal.

"The transaction, which is currently subject to the fulfillment of conditions, including regulatory approvals, is expected to meet a completion date by the end of the first half of 2015," GE Healthcare said. The companies must receive an approval from the Colombian Superintendency of Industry and Commerce to close the deal.

Speranzini told local media that GE Healthcare expects to achieve annual growth of 15 percent in the upcoming three years and become the country´s market leader.

The company will then evaluate whether to establish an assembly plant in the country.

GE Healthcare already has one assembly plant in the region, which the company opened in 2010 in Contagem, Brazil. Plans are to invest as much as $50 million in this plant over a decade.

The plant now employs an estimated 700 people. Brazil also houses one of four research and development labs that GE Healthcare has outside the U.S. The lab opened in 2013 in Rio de Janeiro.

Gemedco reported sales of COP$108,100 million ($45.4 million) in 2013 and a return on investment of about 16.7%, according to the grupogia.com, a financial analysis provider that distributes information from the Colombian Superintendency of Companies. The company had assets worth around COP$62,400 million ($26.2 million) in 2013 and an operating margin of about 13.1%.

Gemedco was founded in 1985 and positioned itself as a leading GE distributor. "Throughout its thirty years of existence, it has been recognized as a provider of solutions for the health sector, with sales and service staff trained in the highest medical technologies," GE Healthcare said.

Besides distributing diagnostic imaging products from GE Healthcare, the Bogota-based company also distributes interventional endovascular and angiographic systems from Terumo (Tokyo), blood irradiators and teletherapy devices branded as Gammacell and Theratron Equinox respectively and produced by Best Theratronics (Ottawa, Canada), and imaging digitization systems developed by Carestream Health (Rochester, New York). GE Healthcare didn't disclose if it will continue distributing those products after closing the deal with Gemedco.

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