Market overview

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Whilst 2020 was a turbulent year for global markets following the outbreak of COVID-19, the life sciences industry has again demonstrated its defensibility to global macro-economic events, corroborated by the strong levels of M&A activity in the sector throughout 2020 into H1 2021.

Whilst COVID-19 resulted in disruption to clinical trial activity, particularly impacting clinical CROs, the life sciences sector has generally continued to perform strongly throughout the pandemic, buoyed by incremental growth opportunities driven by the industry’s efforts to develop therapeutics and vaccines to combat the pandemic.

COVID-19 has put the global life sciences industry in the public spotlight

Perhaps most importantly, COVID-19 has put the global life sciences industry in the public spotlight and has demonstrated the fundamental role it plays in combating infectious disease and safeguarding public health. The speed at which therapeutics and vaccines are being developed, approved and commercially scaled is truly unprecedented and has showcased the scientific excellence and agility of the sector, alongside the importance of international collaboration in combatting global pandemics.

Against the backdrop of COVID-19, the life sciences market continues to be underpinned by attractive fundamentals, whilst margin pressures and increasing costs have resulted in an increasing propensity to outsource their operations to specialist providers. The strong underlying growth of the life sciences market in combination with this outsourcing strategy has resulted in significant growth of the pharma services industry, with specialist outsourcers increasingly becoming key commercial partners and integral components of their clients’ operations.

M&A market dynamics

The attractive market dynamics underpinning the pharma services industry have resulted in high levels of M&A activity, which have been sustained throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The sector has continued to consolidate, with acquirers seeking to add scale, broaden their geographical footprint and expand their service offerings in order to become full-service providers to their customers and capture increasing share of outsourcing budgets.

In many cases, trade acquirers have sought to add complex and high-value services to enter attractive and high growth niches, with such assets attracting high valuations. This is illustrated in the CDMO industry, in which CDMOs serving the cell and gene therapy markets have attracted premium valuations, such as Charles River’s recent acquisition of Cognate BioServices for €727m, representing c.6.3x LTM revenue.

Global PE markets continue to possess record levels of capital to deploy and are increasingly focusing on the pharma services market

While private equity (PE) has been particularly active across pharma services in recent years and responsible for much of the consolidation in the industry, activity levels have increased since the onset of COVID-19. The global PE markets continue to possess record levels of capital to deploy and are increasingly focusing on the pharma services market, which has performed strongly throughout the pandemic and has demonstrated defensibility whilst many other sectors have been adversely impacted.

PE activity since the onset of COVID-19 has been particularly high in the CCO market, which represents the pharma services sub-sector least impacted by the pandemic. Recent transactions include CD&R’s acquisition of Huntsworth, Linden’s acquisition of ProPharma, Bridgepoint’s acquisition of Prescient, ICG’s acquisition of Lucid and LLCP’s acquisition of Prime Global.

We expect continued strong PE activity across all pharma services sub-sectors in the medium term, not least because the pharma services market is forecast to outstrip both GDP and wider pharma sector growth. This growth, supported by attractive underlying fundamentals, will continue to attract investors and encourage strategic M&A in the sector.

Our recent transactions

With 18 offices around the world and deals completed in 44 countries, our team makes us a natural choice for transactions requiring knowledge of, and access to global markets.

The healthcare team has completed over 120 healthcare related deals - 28 of these deals have completed within the last 18 months.

The business has more than 250 staff across Europe, North America and Asia and running throughout our business is an overriding commitment to exceptional outcomes for our clients.

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