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Agilent’s Evolution Since Spinoff May Lead to Takeover: Real M&A

Agilent Technologies Inc. may finally be the right size for a takeover.

The $13 billion company completed the spinoff of its electronic measurement business last month, the latest in a series of moves to slim down since its separation from Hewlett-Packard Co. about 15 years ago. Now, its narrowed focus on faster-growing biological and chemical testing tools and its strong emerging-markets presence could attract interest.

Agilent’s position in the market for tools that analyze chemical mixtures is difficult to replicate and competitors that want to be in the industry would be better off buying their way in, said BTIG LLC. Danaher Corp., the $59 billion conglomerate with billions to spend on acquisitions, could fill gaps in its portfolio with an Agilent takeover, said FBR & Co. Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. is another potential suitor, according to Jefferies LLC.

“With the two businesses split, the new Agilent becomes a much cleaner potential acquisition target for a larger player in the life-sciences space,” Brandon Couillard, a New York-based analyst at Jefferies, said in a phone interview. “It’s one of the most attractive businesses in the sector.”

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Agilent may command about $48 a share, a 21 percent premium to its closing price yesterday, based on similar deals, said Tyler Howard, an analyst at Bellingham, Washington-based Saturna Capital Corp., which oversees about $4 billion, including Agilent shares. Ross Muken, a New York-based analyst at Evercore ISI, estimates a price tag in the same range. He puts...