China's Wuxi PharmaTech saw revenues race away across its divisions in the first quarter of 2008, benefitting from the continued shift towards outsourcing of manufacturing and laboratory functions by the pharmaceutical industry.
The company's laboratory business - focused on discovery chemistry and process R&D services - led the charge, with revenues up 77 per cent to $38.5m. Net revenues of the firm's manufacturing services division were up 53 per cent to $18.7m, operating profit nearly doubled to $11.7m.
Dr Ge Li, WuXi PharmaTech's chairman and CEO, said in a conference call: "This quarter marked the beginning of a new phase as a global company following the acquisition of AppTec. It takes us closer to our goal of transforming pharmaceutical and medical device R&D worldwide."
In part the strong increases were a result of the $169m acquisition of US company AppTec Laboratory Services at the end of January, which provided two months' contributions in the quarter, as well as representing WuXi's first foray into biologics manufacturing. The US business provided around $6m in lab revenues and $5m from contract manufacturing.
Following the acquisition, WuXi is being reorganised into five key areas: laboratory discovery, safety evaluation and medical device and biosafety testing - all under the lab services banner - as well as chemical and biologics manufacturing services.
The strength of the business is witnessed by the fact that underlying revenue growth - excluding the contribution from the now-renamed WuXi AppTec - was 36 per cent. In fact WuXi AppTec came in a little under expectations, which the parent company has attributed to a delay in making full use of its biologics manufacturing capacity.
The company expects capacity utilization to reach around 50 per cent later this year, having been "well below that" in the first quarter, said Li. But it was quick to stress that this situation is not unusual - WuXi only started chemical; manufacturing in 2003 and that took three to four years to ramp up. The same pattern is expected for biologics, according to Edward Hu, WuXi's chief operating officer.
WuXi said it still maintained its revenue forecast for the full year at $280-$300m, with around $90m coming from AppTec.
Part of its growth strategy relies on bringing new facilities on line, and Hu confirmed that an ongoing expansion of its manufacturing plant in Jinshan will complete before the end of the year. Once finished, the investment will boost capacity at the facility from 220,000 sq. ft. to 570,000 sq. ft.
Its laboratory testing facility in Suzhou - fully 325,340 sq. ft. of good laboratory practice (GLP) safety evaluation capacity - will be completed in 2009, he added.