Another advantage of size is that larger companies get the attention of the investor community, which provides investment capital for growth and the opportunity for current owners to realize the value of their investments. Whether the plan is to eventually sell equity to the public, or sell to another private equity firm, the size of a company is important to the investment community, which likes to put large amounts of capital to work in any given deal. Even if a CRO or CMO is a business unit of a larger, diversified company, size is likely to be critical to getting senior management attention and access to corporate capital for investment.
Another driver of acquisition activity in 2012 has been the desire of companies to position themselves in segments of the market that promise more robust growth or better margins than more mundane services. Highly desirable opportunities have included services that support development and manufacture of biopharmaceuticals (both APIs and injectable drug products) and drug-delivery technologies that can be broadly applied such as softgels. Examples of deals driven by these considerations include the acquisitions of Banner PharmaCaps and Aenova, both of which are major players in the softgel business, and Sigma Aldrich's acquisition of BioReliance, a market leader in services for development of biologics.
When the objective is to add important capabilities in critical markets, deals can be strategically important even if they are not large. So-called "bolt-on" acquisitions enable CMOs and CROs to add skills and facilities quickly and with immediate payback and are not disruptive to the acquirer's core operations. A recent example is the acquisition of the UK biosafety laboratory Vitrology by SGS Life Sciences, which extended SGS's offerings for the testing of biopharmaceuticals.
A third rationale that has underlain several recent acquisitions has little to do with contract services. CMOs are being acquired to serve as platforms for building generic products businesses. DPT Laboratories, Confab, and Metrics have all been acquired by companies whose ultimate objective is to build a generic or specialty pharmaceutical business by pairing acquired manufacturing capacity with in-licensed or acquired products. Those companies, well-respected in their respective service areas (semisolids and liquids for DPT and Confab, solid dose and analytical for Metrics), will maintain their successful contract services businesses but also will take on more production of proprietary products.