INVERESK Research, the drug testing company, has turned in its first annual profit since going global.
The East Lothian company has set a target of 25% growth this year after turning a £15m loss into a £21m profit in 2003. The company had been loss making since acquiring ClinTrials of the US in 2001.
Walter Nimmo, chief executive, said: "Inveresk experienced a significant increase in revenues as it continues to realise the benefits of its acquisition strategy in recent years and the diversity of its service offering."
He said Inveresk, which employs around 1,000 staff in Tranent, Edinburgh and Glasgow, would enjoy a busy start to 2004: "We experienced very strong enquiry levels in the third and fourth quarters and this is now being converted into signed contracts, as evidenced by significantly higher new business signings for the fourth quarter."
Inveresk is investing heavily in new research facilities, including a pre-clinical test centre in Edinburgh with space for 120 scientists. The company conducts tests on animals and humans for multinational pharmaceutical companies.
Sales last year increased by 22% to a record £184m, including a contribution from the recently acquired PharmaResearch in the US. Shares in Inveresk, which floated on the US Nasdaq exchange in 2002, have doubled in value since the company pulled out of a planned share issue in March. The group was valued at more than £500m at last week’s closing price.
Nimmo and his fellow directors reaped a £5m windfall when the delayed share sale finally went through in November. Candover, the company’s biggest investor, netted a further £102m, while the company itself gained £12m in development capital.
Nimmo said investment would carry on this year. "Ongoing expansion of our pre-clinical operations and the greater strength in the marketplace of our clinical operations following the PharmaResearch acquisition, will continue to realise benefits for the company in 2004," he said.
The company has opened facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic to serve the growing pharmaceutical industry there.