In-line interims from healthcare services provider UDG Healthcare (UDG) are being overshadowed by a pair of acquisitions that are getting investors quite excited.

Putman and Incisive Health are respectively a US strategic management healthcare consultancy and a UK-based healthcare policy and communications consultancy. The pair have been snapped-up for a combined $106m, which includes a $36m performance element.

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While the boost to earnings looks marginal (nudging earnings growth expectations by an extra 1% or 2%) both deals look strategically sensible.

The deals are part of a drive to increase exposure to higher growth and higher margin market segments. If executed well this could pave the way for faster growing and higher quality profits down the line.

Little wonder that the UDG share price is rallying hard today, jumping 8% to 710p.

STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT

Putman operates an advisory business with a focus on pre-approved product commercialisation, exclusively for the life sciences industry. It has particular strengths in advising on pricing, reimbursement and market access strategy.

Broker Davy believes it is a good strategic fit with existing businesses Vynamic and SmartAnalyst. The initial price paid looks undemanding, representing just  7.5 time adjusted operating profit.

The earn-outs, if paid, would see the acquired business grow profits in the double-digits.

Incisive Health operates from offices in London and Brussels and provides clinical advisory services including, corporate and digital communications, stakeholder campaigning and strategic policy development services.

The purchase price of $17.7m includes an initial consideration of $10.4m, with a contingent consideration of up to $7.3, payable over three years, based on certain profit targets.

UNDERLYING SALES AND PROFITS IN-LINE

As for the half year results, they show revenue, adjusted for disposals and currency movements, up 6% to £657m while operating profits nudged 3% higher to $65.6m.

Ashfield, the advisory and communications division delivers operating profits up 6% in constant currencies, to $47.2m helped by acquisitions made in 2018.

Sharpe, the commercial and clinical division, reports impressive growth of 12%, to $21.1m but this masked a very strong performance in Sharp US of 22%, offset by a $1.6m operating loss in Europe.

Net debt is reported at $56.8m, representing 0.33 times earnings before interest and depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), leaving plenty of room for further acquisitive growth. The group currently has a covenant ceiling of 3.5 times EBITDA.

Return on capital employed remained steady at 12.4%.

The dividend is increased by 5% to $0.0446 which is covered 4.7-times by adjusted earnings per share of $0.2121.

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Issue Date: 21 May 2019