June 6, 2023

By Greg Roumeliotis

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Maravai LifeSciences Holdings Inc, a provider of capping reagents for COVID-19 vaccines whose shares plummeted after the pandemic eased, has attracted private equity interest, people familiar with the matter said.

Buyout firm Thomas H. Lee Partners has approached Maravai, which has a market capitalization of approximately $3.8 billion, with a non-binding offer, the sources said. The price offered could not be learned.

Maravai rejected the offer and there is no certainty that a new offer will follow or that a deal will be reached, the sources added.

Nevertheless, the acquisition approach shows how Maravai has become an acquisition target after losing three-quarters of its value from its August 2021 peak, when the battle to develop COVID-19 vaccines using mRNA technology supported its reagent business. Since then, Maravai has tried to switch to other mRNA-based vaccines.

The sources asked for anonymity because the matter is confidential. Spokesmen for Maravai and Thomas H. Lee Partners did not respond to requests for comment.

Maravai last week lowered its 2023 revenue forecast by $20 million to between $400 million and $440 million, about half of what it generated in 2022. The San Diego-based company blamed a “sluggish” biotech market for the slowdown.

Following the success of COVID-19 vaccines, drugmakers are racing to apply mRNA technology in the development of other vaccines, including for cancer and tuberculosis. Maravai is positioned to gain market share as production of these vaccines takes off in the coming years.

Maravai rejected a $42-per-share cash offer from lab supply supplier Sartorius AG in February 2022 as insufficient, Reuters reported at the time. Maravai shares have since fallen, finishing trading at $15 on Monday.

Maravai has also struggled with CEO succession planning. It tapped former Danaher Corp executive Trey Martin as CEO in October, but sued Danaher for violating its non-compete agreement.

Maravai settled with Danaher by agreeing to delay Martin’s appointment and exclude his involvement in nucleic acid production until the end of July. Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Maravai, Carl Hull, currently serves as interim CEO.

(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York; editing by Anirban Sen and Mark Potter)