Fisher mulls selling lab workstation unit

Fisher Scientific International is thinking of getting rid of its laboratory workstation business, one of its older lines, according to a Tuesday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Hampton-based company’s board of directors authorized management to evaluate strategic alternatives to the business – “including its possible disposition” — due to “challenging market conditions,” the filing said. The company hasn’t come up with any timetable or a cost estimate for the evaluation.

According to the company’s last annual SEC filing, the laboratory workstations segment primarily manufactures and sells workstations and fume hoods for laboratories. Sales in the laboratory workstations segment represented approximately $200.6 million, or 3 percent, of total sales in 2005. That was a $24 million increase from the previous year, but the company actually lost about $700,000. The decrease in operating margins was primarily the result of an increase in raw material costs and start-up costs related to a new manufacturing facility in Mexico, which opened last year.

In addition, the board increased its annual compensation by $20,000 to $60,000 a year, with the chairman of the audit committee receiving $80,000, a $30,000 increase, as well as approving an annual grant to each non-employee director of 2,000 restricted stock units vesting over a three-year period (with one-third vesting each year). – BOB SANDERS

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