November 2013: UDG Healthcare

Company of the Month | Thu 28 Nov | Author – Business & Finance
Liam Fitzgerald

A significant increase in revenue and pre-tax profits in 2012, and a number of key acquisitions, has led the Dublin-headquartered healthcare services company to look towards a bright 2014.

Established in Ballina, Co. Mayo in 1948 as a co-operative controlled by Irish pharmacists, UDG Healthcare plc – formerly United Drug – is a leading international provider of services to healthcare manufacturers and pharmacies, with 8,000 employees, and trades in 22 countries including Ireland, the UK and the US.

On November 21st, the Group posted an 11% increase in revenue, for the 12 months to the end of September 2013, to over €2bn, with adjusted operating profit up 13% to over €95mn. Commenting on the 2013 performance, UDG Healthcare’s CEO, Liam FitzGerald says: “2013 has been a year of substantial progress for the Group. Group revenues for the year of €2.03bn were 11% higher than in 2012. Operating profits have grown by 13%, and earnings per share have increased by 8% on a constant currency basis.

“The Group has considerable long-term financing facilities available and good internally generated cash flow to support our growth objectives. The Group holds strong market positions in attractive markets and remains very positive about our future growth prospects.”


The substantial increase in revenue certainly comes at a time of change for UDG. Following the Group’s decision to move its primary listing to London Stock Exchange in 2012, the company went through a major rebrand – from United Drug to UDG Healthcare plc – which was completed in October 2013.

UDG Healthcare now operates across three divisions: Ashfield Commercial and Medical Services, a global leader in the provision of contract sales outsourcing services to pharmaceutical manufacturers; supply chain services, which includes the United Drug Supply Chain Services – the largest pharmaceutical wholesaler in the island of Ireland – and the Aquilant Specialist Healthcare Services businesses; and sharp packaging services, a leading international provider of pharmaceutical contract packaging and clinical trials materials services with facilities in the US, UK, Dutch and Belgian markets.

Fitzgerald is confident that the rebrand and further moves towards international markets will yield fruit in 2014. He says: “Following the recent rebranding, UDG Healthcare plc has further strengthened its position as an international leader in the provision of high-quality outsourcing solutions for healthcare companies across 22 countries. The US, UK and the Eurozone each generated circa one third of the Group’s operating profits during the year, with the US increasing its share by 8% to 34% over the year.”

He adds: “The rebranding will enable each division to sell services more successfully and our strengthened senior management team will enable us to run the expanded Group more effectively.”


Throughout 2012, UDG made five acquisitions, all of which Fitzgerald says have been successfully integrated into the Group.

In August 2013, the company completed the acquisition of Expansis, a contract sales provider in Spain, for €12mn, while later that month, the Group agreed the acquisition of Canadian healthcare communications and management firm, Medical Communications Group’s multi-channel marketing business for €11.2mn, which Fitzgerald hopes will open up the Canadian market to UDG.

Commenting on the announcement, FitzGerald said: “The acquisition of MCG is another example of United Drug [UDG] bolting on complementary businesses to build scale, where we already have an existing market presence. MCG has established a reputation over many years as a highly innovative provider of promotional services and the MCG expertise in multi-channel marketing complements the field based capabilities of Pharmexx. With our combined resources and expertise we look forward to building a market leading service offering in Canada.”

About the CEO

Liam FitzGerald was appointed chief executive of UDG Healthcare (formally United Drug) in October 2000, having previously served on the board since 1996. He joined the company in 1993, before which he was managing director of United Drug Distributors and also worked with Dimension Marketing Limited and Smurfit Kappa Group.

Fitzgerald is a former non-executive director of Warner Chilcott plc and C&C Group plc and former chairman of the Marketing Society and Traidlinks. A graduate of UCD, he has a BComm and an MBS.

SAS logo

Business & Finance, Company of the Month

Business & Finance, in association with SAS Ireland, recognises excellence in business through the ‘Company of the Month’ award. The Company of the Month award recognises the company which best demonstrates outstanding business leadership, sustainable growth, innovative strategy, strong financial returns and employee development.