BICO’s Revival: A Fresh Era with Maria Forss at the Helm

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Swedish biotech company BICO (STO: BICO) has been making waves in the industry recently. Ever since Maria Forss assumed the role of CEO in November 2023, the company seems to have received a much-needed breath of fresh air. This new leadership comes after a tumultuous period that saw the departure of co-founder and CFO Gusten Danielsson, leading to the eventual retirement of CEO and co-founder Erik Gatenholm. Danielsson, who was responsible for strategizing BICO’s economic direction, stated at the time that Gatenholm was “no longer the right leader for the company, even if he remains a controlling shareholder.” It all points to internal turmoil as the leading cause of the managerial shift. Now, with a new CEO at the helm, BICO is poised for a potential rejuvenation.

Alongside these changes, BICO achieved promising financial results in the third quarter of 2023 and divested Ginolis through a management buy-out. Additionally, its subsidiary, Cellink, hosted a successful bioprinting conference in Europe, fostering innovation in the field. With these developments, BICO is off to a promising start under the new leadership, positioning the company for a new phase of growth and innovation.

Financial results

BICO released its interim report for the third quarter of 2023, and the numbers are promising. In comparison to the same period in 2022, BICO experienced a 6.6% increase in net sales, reaching SEK 587.2 million ($56.1 million). Its organic sales growth stood at 6.6%, demonstrating the company’s ability to thrive in a challenging market. Notably, the gross margin decreased to 69.2%, but this was expected due to various factors, including the impact of Covid-19-related sales in Ginolis, which ended up being divested (more on that below).

The standout figure is the adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization), which soared to SEK 69.2 million ($6.6 million), compared to just SEK 18.1 million ($1.7 million) in the previous year. This translates to an impressive margin of 11.8%. However, when excluding Covid-19 related sales in Ginolis, the adjusted EBITDA reaches an even more impressive SEK 97.1 million ($9.3 million), with a margin of 16.6%. These financial indicators show that BICO has not only managed to weather market challenges but also significantly improved its profitability during this period.

Strategic move

One significant event that happened after the third quarter was the divestment of Ginolis on November 10, 2023. BICO decided to sell the business through a management buy-out to Ginolis’ current CEO, Kauko Väinämö, for a symbolic purchase price of €1. While this divestment is estimated to result in a loss of SEK 25 million ($2.4 million), it’s important to note that this loss is considered a non-cash item. This accounting change shows that the asset’s value on BICO’s books has gone down because of the lower sale price. However, it doesn’t involve a cash payment, maintaining BICO’s financial stability.

Ginolis’ modular robotics system. Image courtesy of BICO.

The rationale behind this divestment appears to be BICO’s desire to adapt to the changing post-pandemic landscape. Despite efforts to scale down Ginolis during 2023, the order intake did not meet expectations. However, BICO retained certain intellectual property rights and licenses, including those related to the patented PMBi (Piezo Motor Bellows) dispensing pump, which could hold value in the future. Additionally, BICO stands to benefit from 70% of the net proceeds if Ginolis is sold within the next three years.

BICO leadership

Perhaps the most significant development for BICO is Forss assuming the roles of CEO and President on November 20, 2023. This transition marks a crucial turning point for the company as it navigates through challenges and seeks a brighter future. To ensure a smooth transition, Gatenholm, the outgoing CEO, will assist with Forss’s onboarding process for a quarter before transitioning into a senior advisory role.

Maria Forss brings a wealth of international experience to her new role, having held leadership positions in prominent medtech and pharma companies, including Vitrolife and AstraZeneca. Her track record includes successfully developing businesses throughout the entire product life cycle and integrating companies, making her a valuable asset to BICO as it looks to chart a new course.

Maria Forss, new BICO ceo. Image courtesy of Maria Forss via LinkedIn.

Innovation at the helm

With the new management taking the reins at BICO, it appears to mark a fresh start for other areas of the company, like Cellink. Now a subsidiary, Cellink was the brand that originally laid the foundation back in 2016 for what later became BICO. Cellink is making a noteworthy resurgence, having hosted the Cellink Partnership Conference in Portsmouth, UK, in late October. This event brought together experts and thought leaders in the field of bioprinting to discuss discoveries and advancements in tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and 3D cell culture.

“Our vision for the event has always been to create a space to share cutting-edge work being done in the space of tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and 3D cell culture,” Cellink CEO Cecilia Edebo told 3DPrint.com. “As enablers of this work, we have the unique opportunity to foster further collaboration, with a hope to accelerate progress in the life sciences by bringing these tremendous minds together to share and learn from each other.”

Cellink CEO Cecilia Edebo and her team celebrate the Cellink Partnership Conference in the UK. Image courtesy of Cellink.

With over 110 participants, the conference provided a platform for collaboration and knowledge sharing, highlighting the importance of bioprinting standards and alternative requirements to animal testing, causes that Cellink has always championed. While the event won’t return in 2024, it is scheduled to make a comeback in 2025, maintaining its bi-annual schedule.

Avi Minocha, head of Cellink marketing, said the Partnership Conference is one of the company’s foremost opportunities to engage with its end users, understand their user experience, and learn how to better support their research.

Overall, BICO’s recent developments, including its impressive financial results, Ginolis divestment, and the appointment of Forss as CEO, have set the stage for a potentially promising future. With a new leader at the helm, BICO seems ready to overcome past challenges and embark on a new journey.

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