After Stratasys and Desktop Metal announce merger plans, 3D Systems proposes acquisition

It’s been a wild few weeks for some of the biggest names in 3D printing. Last week, Stratasys announced plans to merge with Desktop Metal, and now another industry bigwig is getting in on the action. 3D Systems marked the occasion by announcing its own unsolicited bid to purchase Stratasys.

“The combination of 3D Systems and Stratasys is simply the best outcome for the shareholders of both companies,” 3D Systems CEO Jeffrey Graves, said in a prepared statement. “We feel strongly that now is the time for all parties to recognize the overwhelming logic of our two businesses coming together. We are in a unique position to move with confidence and speed and we encourage the Stratasys Board of Directors to engage with our proposal and make this combination a reality for the benefit of the shareholders, employees and customers of both companies.”

If you haven’t been following the space, you’ve likely missed some of the earlier drama. The Desktop Metal bid came in the wake of shareholder Nano Dimension’s bid to take over Stratasys. Nano Dimension, a smaller additive manufacturing firm, formalized its plans in early March.

The company published an open letter detailing plans to increase its ownership of 14.5% (which already makes it the largest shareholder) to 85.5% at a price of $18 a share. It noted at the time:

We believe now is the time to combine our two companies and are pleased to present to you this non-binding indicative offer (the “Indicative Offer”), which outlines the principal terms and conditions under which NANO would propose to enter into a business combination with Stratasys (the “Proposed Transaction”). We are highly confident in the merits of the Proposed Transaction and we strongly believe the offer represents an attractive proposal for all stakeholders of the Company.

Stratasys’ board of directors unanimously rejected the bid before the month was out (by which time the price had risen to a $20.05 per share cash offer).

“Consistent with its fiduciary duties, and in consultation with its independent financial and legal advisors, the Stratasys Board of Directors carefully reviewed and evaluated the revised proposal,” Stratasys noted in a release. “Following its review, the Stratasys Board concluded that Nano’s proposal continues to substantially undervalue Stratasys in light of its standalone prospects and is not in the best interests of Stratasys and its shareholders.”

On May 25, the company announced a different move altogether. The $1.8 billion all-stock transaction would unite the large polymer-based industrial 3D printing firm with a pioneer in metal 3D printing.

“Today is an important day in Stratasys’ evolution,” said Dr. Yoav Zeif, CEO of Stratasys. “The combination with Desktop Metal will accelerate our growth trajectory by uniting two leaders to create a premier global provider of industrial additive manufacturing solutions. With attractive positions across complementary product offerings, including aerospace, automotive, consumer products, healthcare and dental, as well as one of the largest and most experienced R&D teams, industry-leading go-to-market infrastructure and a robust balance sheet, the combined company will be committed to delivering ongoing innovation while providing outstanding service to customers.”

Desktop Metal CEO Ric Fulop added, “We believe this is a landmark moment for the additive manufacturing industry. The combination of these two great companies marks a turning point in driving the next phase of additive manufacturing for mass production. We are excited to complement our portfolio of production metal, sand, ceramic and dental 3D printing solutions with Stratasys’ polymer offerings. Together, we will strive to build an even more resilient offering with a diversified customer base across industries and applications in order to drive long-term sustainable growth.

3D Systems, a massive player in its own right, low-balled Nano Dimension’s offer, at $7.50 in cash and 1.2507 in stock per share — a figure that comes in just shy of Nano’s $18 per share proposal. Stratasys told Reuters that it will “carefully review” the new proposal ahead of the planned Desktop Metal deal, which is set to close in Q4.

In addition to its massive presence in the industrial space, Stratasys has acquired its way into the consumer market. The company acquired MakerBot almost exactly a decade ago, before merging the brand with one-time arch competitor Ultimaker last May.