Idexx Laboratories Inc. has become Maine’s sole representative in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, a stock index of 500 publicly traded companies that is considered a leading bellwether of the U.S. economy.

S&P Dow Jones Indices announced late Tuesday in a news release that Westbrook-based Idexx, which makes various diagnostic products for animal health care, would be replacing Minnesota-based St. Jude Medical on the S&P 500 Index after the stock market closed Wednesday. St. Jude is being acquired by another S&P 500 member, Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories.

Idexx is only the second Maine-based company ever to be included in the index. Unum Corp., now known as Unum Group, was added to the S&P 500 in 1994, about five years before it merged with Provident Cos. in 1999 and relocated its headquarters from Portland to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Idexx Chairman and CEO Jonathan Ayers said Wednesday that he was honored to have the company added to the S&P 500 Index.

“This recognition is testament to our growth since our founding on the Portland waterfront 34 years ago,” he said. “Idexx is proud to add a Maine-based company to the S&P 500. I am deeply grateful to all of our employees who contributed to helping us achieve this accomplishment.”

Ayers said the company did not receive any advance notice of its inclusion in the index. S&P does not inform companies in advance because induction into the S&P 500 can have an impact on their share prices, he said.

Still, Ayers said he had assumed Idexx would make the list eventually because of its consistent growth. The company’s stock price has increased by about 20 percent a year on average since its initial public offering in 1991, he said.

Ayers said being part of the index will bring increased attention and interest to Idexx, and will help the company recruit employees.

“I think this is the most prestigious index of companies in the world,” he said. “It is the index that all other companies are benchmarked against.”

The S&P 500 is widely regarded as the best gauge of large-cap U.S. equities, according to its website. Over $7.8 trillion is benchmarked to the index, with assets making up about $2.2 trillion of that total. The index includes 500 leading companies and captures roughly 80 percent coverage of the available market capitalization among publicly traded U.S. firms.

Companies are selected to be part of the S&P 500 by a committee of financial experts that examines factors such as market capitalization (the number of outstanding shares multiplied by the price per share), liquidity (available cash or cash equivalents), length of time as a publicly traded company and overall financial viability. A market capitalization of $5.3 billion is considered the minimum requirement. Idexx has a market capitalization of more than $10 billion.

The index committee ensures that the S&P 500 includes companies from a broad mix of industries in proportions that reflect the overall market. It adds and removes companies as needed to maintain that balance. Most are U.S. companies, Although a small percentage are based overseas.

Idexx has continued to experience rapid growth in both revenue and profit in recent years. The company, which is listed on the Nasdaq exchange under the symbol IDXX, employs about 2,300 workers in Westbrook and more than 7,000 around the world.

The company says it provides diagnostic and information technology-based products and services that help veterinarians provide advanced medical care, improve staff efficiency, and build more economically successful practices. Idexx also provides livestock and poultry diagnostic tests, as well as tests for the quality and safety of water and milk.

Ayers said the inclusion of Idexx in the S&P 500 will bring more positive attention to Maine and boost investment in the state overall.

“I think the announcement will bring more attention to Maine as a place to build a world-class business,” he said.

 

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