The transaction is expected to close within 30 days and represents a major push into the US contract packaging market for United Drug, which is already a major player in this sector in Ireland and the UK and, to lesser extent, continental Europe. The deal will be settled in cash on completion, funded by internal resources and debt, according to United Drug, which said it expects it to close within 30 days, depending on the usual regulatory and antitrust approvals. The Irish company, which combines pharmaceutical wholesaling and supply chain activities with contract services in packaging, sales and marketing and other commercial areas, has been pursuing scale of late with a series of small-scale acquisitions. In April 2007 it expanded its presence in the contract packaging sector in continental Europe via the purchase of the healthcare packaging division of Belgian firm Budelpack, adding to existing facilities in the UK and the Netherlands. Sharp is one of the largest independent pharmaceutical contract packaging companies in the US, with a staff of about 600 people. The company provides packaging services to large pharmaceutical, generic, biotechnology and consumer healthcare companies. In a statement, United Drug said that by adding Sharp to its portfolio it now has "market leading positions in contract packaging in both the US and European markets, with a well defined management structure, and a strengthened international platform from which to continue to develop the business." Sharp employs about 600 people in Upper Macungie and a packaging facility in Conshohocken. Sharp's management, led by chief executive George Burke, will remain with the business along with all other employees. United Drug said the acquisition would be "immediately accretive to earnings," adding that Sharp reported revenues of $99m in 2007 and is expected to have net assets of $71m on completion of the deal. The latest deal brings contract packaging back to the fore at United Drug after a long spell in which it has been boosting its commercial services offering. In April it bought two UK-based sales and marketing firms, Business Edge Solutions and Universal Conference and Incentive Travel, for £14.4m Those deals came swiftly after its £4.2m purchase of another UK commercial services firm - Procon Conferences - in November 2007 and the $10.5m acquisition of US sales and marketing service provider Alliance Healthcare Information in October 2007.