Business Irish

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Home-grown success story that began in Mayo town

Published 18/09/2012 | 05:00

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FED up with indifferent Dublin-based wholesalers, a group of chemists established United Drug in Ballina, Co Mayo, in 1948.

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As the firm grew, Munster pharmacists invited the company to replicate the operation to serve their region. The Limerick arm opened in 1953 and the company continued to gain market share.

The company grew and in 1973 was acquired by conglomerate BWG -- which was itself at one stage owned by Irish Distillers.

But United Drug was spun off as a separate company and floated on the Irish stock exchange in 1986. Its chief executive, Liam FitzGerald, was one of the youngest bosses of an Irish listed company when he was appointed in 2000.

United Drug has been a home-grown success story. But the roadmap for its growth hasn't been without its speed bumps.

The mid-cap firm, which has a market capitalisation of €661m, was dealt a blow as the wholesale drug market in Ireland went under a radical transformation after the Government sought to curb the prices it was paying for pharmaceuticals.

The company has also been impacted as hospitals sought to reduce spending on supplies. But United Drug has continued to look overseas to propel growth. The United States is playing an increasingly important role in that development.

The company's activities are extensive. Aside from its wholesale operation, it is involved in drug packaging, event management for drug companies, distribution of medical equipment, contract sales and marketing for clients.

This summer alone, it has agreed to pay close to €130m to acquire companies as it seeks to broaden its reach. Expect it to be forking out more in future as it continues to go global.

Irish Independent

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