The purchase is United Drug's first foray beyond Ireland and UK into mainland Europe and marks the beginning of a concerted effort by the firm to build an international pharma and healthcare services company. The Irish firm bought Budelpack's pharma and healthcare packaging division, which is said to provide a "full range" of contract packaging services, from the Belgian firm for an undisclosed sum and it will now be integrated into the company's Supply Chain Services division. The business works with a number of international manufacturers throughout Europe and employs 140 people, all of whom will be retained, the company said. "The acquired business fits very well with our existing packaging business in the UK, TD Packaging," said United Drug's CEO Liam FitzGerald. TD Packaging was bought in 2005 and was the company's first foray into contract packaging. Although United Drug's core business is that of a pharmaceutical wholesaler, the acquisition of another packaging firm is not unexpected and similar deals may emerge in the coming months. Following the company's annual general meeting at the end of February, FitzGerald spoke of his plans to move the company onto the international stage through a strategy of both organic and acquisitive growth. "We have been very successful at doing bolt-on deals in the past; since 2000, we've done 10 deals. I would expect that sort of pace to continue," he said, adding that the firm would specifically be targeting take-over opportunities with contract packaging firms and medical and scientific companies. At the time FitzGerald indicated the firm would have around €150m to throw at such deals over the coming year. Sparking the company's metamorphic plans is the fact that over the past decade European pharmaceutical wholesalers have been facing tough times. Margins continue to be squeezed as a result of government efforts to reduce the increasing financial burdens of drugs on public health care expenditures and as a result, the industry has experienced considerable consolidation in order to remain economically viable. "The current model of purely relying on re-sale price earnings on pharmaceuticals is no longer sustainable, however, the industry as a whole is not evolving," FitzGerald told Outsourcing-Pharma.com at last year's annual general meeting of the European Association of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (GIRP) in Budapest. "Pharmaceutical wholesalers in Europe need to evolve to meet the changing pharma market and a world of opportunity awaits for those willing to think beyond their traditional business model and move to compete in the outsourcing arena."