A new publicly traded company that launched in Portland on Friday plans to bring 1,200 new jobs to a downtown headquarters that is under construction, bolstering the area’s reputation as a growing hub for the animal health industry.

Benjamin Shaw, the president and CEO of Covetrus Inc., celebrated the listing of its stock Friday by ringing the opening bell of the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York’s Times Square.

Shaw, the former head of Vets First Choice, sees the creation of Covetrus not as the culmination of nearly a decade of company-building, but as the starting point for a new venture that aims to dominate the global animal health landscape with a broad suite of technology products and services.

“I think the headline is we’re forming a new company – it’s really a combination of Vets First Choice and Henry Schein Animal Health, two really respected animal health companies in the world – to create one of the largest animal health companies, and a new company that’s headquartered in Portland, Maine, which is pretty awesome,” Shaw said Wednesday in a phone interview.

 

Covetrus began regular trading on the Nasdaq exchange Friday under the symbol CVET. Its shares were valued at $43.41 as of 2 p.m. Thursday, according to Yahoo! Finance.

Covetrus was created by the merger of Vets First Choice and a spin-off of the animal health division of New York-based health care products and services firm Henry Schein Inc. Vets First Choice was founded in 2010 by Shaw and his father, David Shaw, co-founder of Idexx Laboratories Inc., a veterinary device manufacturer based in Westbrook.

Vets First Choice received city approval in fall 2018 to build a five-story, 170,000-square-foot headquarters in downtown Portland, which now will become the world headquarters for Covetrus. The facility is expected to provide office space, a pharmacy, fulfillment center, and software and data science labs. It is designed to have space for 1,500 employees – 1,200 more than the company’s current Portland employee base of 300.

Industry leaders in Maine said the formation of Covetrus is a positive development for all participants in the Portland area’s growing animal health cluster.

“We now have four public animal health companies in town,” said Michael Brigham, president and CEO of Portland-based bovine health products maker ImmuCell Corp. “That brings talented employees to the market. It also (creates) more opportunities for good legal, accounting, banking and consulting support professionals. I have already seen the benefit – somebody comes to town to visit one of the big guys, and they take the time to come see us, too.”

STAYING IN MAINE

While the Portland area has only a handful of major animal health companies – including Covetrus, Idexx, ImmuCell and U.K.-based Dechra Pharmaceuticals – it has begun to distinguish itself as a regional destination for companies and workers in an industry that thrives on consumers’ desire to keep their animals healthy. The global animal health industry is valued at about $150 billion in annual sales, according to Covetrus.

Covetrus will focus on software products that help veterinarians manage their practices. The company’s portfolio will include product and inventory management, analytics for medical compliance, and an integrated platform that engages clients, saves staff time and drives revenues, the company said.

“Covetrus presents an opportunity to really help veterinarians around the world with an incredible array of services and technologies to help them be successful,” Benjamin Shaw said.

Jay Mazelsky, executive vice president of the Idexx Companion Animal Group, said the launch of Covetrus also will benefit other animal health companies and Maine’s economy.

“It’s an exciting time to be in the animal health industry, and we’re always happy to see another company choose Maine as its home base,” Mazelsky said. “We welcome the growth of other Maine companies, which is good for our state’s economy and for expanding its pool of skilled talent.”

$4 BILLION IN COMBINED REVENUE

Covetrus is inheriting a lawsuit filed by Idexx against two former Idexx employees who were recruited by Vets First Choice, claiming they took proprietary company information and brought it over to Vets First Choice in violation of non-compete agreements. Vets First has denied engaging in any unethical business practices. The lawsuit is still pending in Maine’s U.S. District Court.

Covetrus becomes Maine’s largest publicly traded company in terms of annual sales, with its two merging components generating combined revenue of about $4 billion in 2018. The state’s two next-largest publicly traded firms, Idexx and Wex Inc., have generated revenue of $2.21 billion and $1.44 billion, respectively, in the most recent 12 months for which results are available.

Shaw said one of the benefits of becoming a publicly traded company is that it cements Covetrus’ future as a Maine-based firm. Several other fast-growing companies in Maine have been acquired recently by larger firms with headquarters outside the state. That won’t happen to Covetrus, he said.

Portland City Councilor Justin Costa, chair of the city’s Economic Development Committee, said the launch of Covetrus is another step in Portland’s development as a hub for technology and software development companies.

“We’re delighted to learn that this merger will further the growth of Vets First Choice, add to the number of publicly traded companies here in Maine, and help ensure that it remains a Portland-based company,” Costa said. “The fact that this company will support more than 1,500 high-quality jobs is sure to attract more people to live and work in Portland.”

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: jcraiganderson

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