ECI backs Premier

Biotech research specialist Premier Research Group is to be acquired by Pegasus Bidco, a vehicle backed by management, UK private equity group ECI and finance provider Indigo in a deal that values the firm at £60.1m (€77m).

The 100p per share cash offer represents a premium of about 38% to Premier’s closing price on March 14, the last business day prior to the announcement that the company was in the final stages of agreeing to accept an offer.

The AIM-listed business is one of the top 15 full-service contract research organisations (CROs) worldwide. It provides a comprehensive range of clinical services, including the design and execution of clinical trials, to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries.

It has operations in Europe and North America and provides a range of clinical outsourcing services. The Crowthorne-based group was founded in 2002 and employs more than 850 staff in 30 international offices.

Commenting on the deal, Dr Peter Fellner, chairman of Premier Research, said: “Premier Research came to the market in 2004 with the declared aim of building a competitive, international CRO business through a buy-and-build strategy. However, the recent difficult stock market conditions and the reduced availability of debt funding currently prevent this strategy from being effectively pursued.

“The board believes that it is important to continue to broaden the group’s offering in order to maintain and grow its business, and therefore believes that the proposal to take the company private is in its best interests,” Fellner said. “Moreover, the price being offered of 100p per share represents a fair price, at an attractive premium to the recent market price, at which shareholders can exit.”

During 2007 ECI sold Enviros, Anix, Thinkmoney Group, Nuaire, MandM Direct and Bounty for a total value of about £400m. According to ECI, during the period of its investment, these businesses created 775 new jobs, increased sales by 14% a year and lifted profits by 22% a year.