By Mary Welch

Packard BioScience Co., a developer of instruments and related services for drug discovery, genomics and biochip analysis, raised $108 million in its initial public offering (IPO), about half its original plan.

The Meriden, Conn.-based company sold 12 million shares at $9 each. Underwriters were Merrill Lynch & Co. and Chase H&Q, both of New York; Robert W. Baird & Co., of Milwaukee; and Banc of America Securities LLC and Thomas Weisel Partners LLC, both of San Francisco.

Packard BioScience's stock (NASDAQ:PBSC) ended its first day of trading Thursday at $9.125, up 12.5 cents.

The net proceeds will be used to pay the outstanding balance of $37.4 million on a term loan and the outstanding balance of $31.4 million on the U.S. dollar-denominated portion of a revolving credit facility. In addition, the proceeds will go toward making open-market purchases of the company's 9.266 percent subordinated notes due March 4, 2007, $150 million of which in aggregate amount was outstanding as of Feb. 20. The company also plans on increasing research and development, new product development and enhancement of existing products.

Packard BioScience generated revenues in 1999 of $264.9 million. Its technology portfolio is designed to support the industrialization of drug discovery by bringing the benefits of miniaturization, automation and ultra-high-throughput analysis.

Through its association with Packard Instrument, of Meriden, the company is a leader in laboratory automation and has developed scalable platforms in the manufacturing and marketing of bioanalytical instruments for use in the life sciences research industry, it said. Its approach is aimed at total integration of its technologies, which is aimed at increasing speed, reducing cost, improving data accuracy and enhancing productivity.

The company owns more than 50 U.S. and international patents, with 30 more pending. Among the services it offers to the drug screening industry are microwell plate readers, imaging systems, automated liquid handling systems and bioanalytical spectrometers.

Through its collaboration with Canberra Industries, of Walnut Creek, Calif., the company develops analytical instruments and systems to detect, identify and quantify and monitor radioactive materials for the nuclear industry and related markets.

The company's customers include almost all of the 50 largest pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in the world, and represent about 27 percent of its total revenues.

Despite its revenue, the company had a net loss of $198,000 last year. As of Dec. 31, it had $7.6 million in cash.

Stonington Capital Appreciation 1994 LP, of New York, owned 61 percent of the stock prior to the offering.