Dublin clinical trials group Icon buys PRA in $12bn deal

Combined group will form the world’s largest contract research organisation

Irish clinical trials group Icon, which employs more than 1,000 people in the Republic, is to acquire US company PRA Health Sciences in a $12 billion (€9.87 billion) deal.

The combined company will form the world's largest contract research organisation, and is to be headquartered at Icon's Leopardstown campus in Dublin.

The cash and stock deal is comprised of $80 per share in cash and 0.4125 shares of Icon stock. It represents a 30 per cent premium on PRA’s closing price on Wednesday. Upon completion of the transaction, PRA shareholders will own about 34 per cent of the shares of the combined company.

Icon said the deal brings together two organisations with similar cultures and a shared focus on high quality and efficient clinical trial execution from phase one to post-approval studies. The combined business will be either the leading or second leading organisation in key clinical market segments and have formal strategic partnerships with most of the top 20 biopharma companies.


PRA Health Sciences is a contract research organisation with headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina that was founded in 1982. The company employs about 17,000 people globally.

"The combined company will create a new paradigm for accelerating clinical research and bringing new medicines and devices to market. Both Icon and PRA have track records of robust growth and performance and we are ready to build on this unrivalled position of strength, utilising the outstanding talent in both organisations," said Icon chief executive Dr Steve Cutler.


The transaction is expected to be highly accretive, delivering double-digit accretion in the first full year and growing to 20 per cent or more thereafter, driven by growth momentum, estimated annual run-rate cost synergies of $150 million, and the combined effective tax rate decreasing to 14 per cent, both to be realised in four years.

Icon, which is listed on the Nasdaq, is a global provider of drug development solutions and services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries, was established in 1990 by Dr John Climax and Dr Ronan Lambe, the company employs 13,680 people in 37 countries.

It said it intends to fund the cash portion of the transaction consideration through a combination of cash on hand and fully committed debt financing from Citi.

Following completion of the deal, Dr Cutler will serve as chief executive of the combined company. PRA chairman and chief executive Colin Shannon will join the board along with one additional person from the Carolina-headquartered company.

The deal comes as Icon announced record business wins totalling $1.08 billion for the fourth quarter as well as revenues of $760.2 million, up 8.3 per cent year-on-year.

Full-year revenues declined 0.3 per cent to $2.8 billion with adjusted earnings per share totalling $6.53, versus $6.88 in 2019.

The company forecast 2021 revenues in the range of $3.2-3.3 billion, an increase of 14.4-18 per cent on last year’s turnover.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist