AmerisourceBergen to acquire World Courier Group

AmerisourceBergen Corp., the Valley Forge drug wholesaler that is 27th on the Fortune 500 list, made its biggest foreign step Tuesday by announcing it has agreed to spend $520 million for World Courier Group Inc., a privately held global specialty-transportation and logistics provider for the biopharmaceutical industry.

The globalization of large U.S. businesses is almost a given these days, but it doesn’t apply to every company in the same way.

AmerisourceBergen had more revenue — $80 billion — than any of the pharmaceutical companies it handles products for, but had only a small presence outside the United States, in Canada and Wales.

The supply chain for drugs is complicated and often country specific. McKesson Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc. are AmerisourceBergen’s bigger competitors in the United States, and they have Philadelphia-area offices.

But as pharmaceutical and medical-device companies develop, test, manufacture, and sell more products in foreign countries in pursuit of profits, AmerisourceBergen decided it needed to follow.

“This is our first truly international expansion,” AmerisourceBergen chief executive officer Steven Collis said Tuesday. “We are a Philadelphia company using capital to expand globally.”

Chief financial officer Tim Guttman said the company would use cash to buy World Courier.

World Courier is headquartered in Stamford, Conn., but the key element for Ameri sourceBergen is World Courier’s 137 offices in 52 countries, covering every continent but Antarctica. Only 35 percent of its business is done in the United States, Collis said.

World Courier does not own airplanes, but handles shipping arrangements for medically sensitive products, especially in the clinical-trial stage.

Patients want to know that drugs, and the ingredients used to produce them, were shipped in a way that avoids contamination. The same idea is supposed to apply to specimens — blood, tissue, cells — that are part of clinical trials used to decide if drugs work.

More and more of the trials, even those sponsored by U.S. companies, are occurring overseas, so the pieces have to move across oceans and borders.

“Clinical trials are so expensive for companies that World Courier has to execute at a high level,” Guttman said.

AmerisourceBergen has 11,000 employees, and a few more might be added to the local headquarters with the acquisition.

World Courier president Wayne Heyland will stay on and report to Collis.

“We are very pleased to bring our global expertise and decades of experience serving international biopharmaceutical manufacturers and contract research organizations (CROs) to AmerisourceBergen,” Heyland said in a statement.