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23andMe CEO plans to take company private

Dive Brief:

  • 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki plans to take the DNA testing company private, according to a Wednesday filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. 
  • Wojcicki currently owns more than 20% of the firm’s total outstanding shares, and about 49% of voting rights. She plans to acquire all outstanding shares of the company. 
  • The CEO wants to maintain control of 23andMe and would not be willing to support any alternative transaction, according to the filing. 

Dive Insight:

23andMe, which makes consumer genetic tests, has been looking at strategic alternatives as its shares have fallen. The firm went public in 2021 through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company valuing 23andMe at $3.5 billion. Its stock has traded below a dollar this year, down from its IPO price of $10 per share.

23andMe has also expanded into drug research by using its database built up through the DNA testing business, with Wojcicki claiming the company was a full-fledged biotech.

In February, Wojcicki discussed splitting up the consumer and therapeutics businesses as a potential option. 23andMe’s board formed a special committee last month, composed of independent directors, to review strategic alternatives.

Now, the CEO is considering taking the company private, a move that TD Cowen analysts said could be the “new most likely outcome” in a Thursday research note. 

Wojcicki is working with advisers and plans to seek out potential partners and financing sources, according to the SEC filing. The special committee would review her proposal once it’s available, alongside other options, including continuing to operate as a publicly traded company. 

The Cowen analysts wrote the company has been challenged because biotech investors, who would be interested in the therapeutics side of the business, don’t want to be involved in a direct-to consumer platform. Other investors might be interested in a mature healthcare business but don’t want to support the cash burn of therapeutics. 

“A potential business split, which has been previously discussed, remains on the table in our view and addresses the central dilemma of 23andMe shares, but beyond that options are seemingly limited, in our view,” they wrote. “We view the company turning private from Ms. Wojcicki’s proposal as the new most likely outcome which should be welcomed by investors.” 

23andMe has faced financial pressure as sales of DNA tests have declined and an exclusive research collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline ended last year. In its fiscal third quarter, ending Dec. 31, revenues fell about 33% year over year to $44.7 million.

After a data breach last year affected 6.9 million people, the company now faces multiple lawsuits from its customers.