Merged at last, PRA and RPS say they're fourth-largest CRO

Private equity giant KKR has finally a sealed a deal more than $1.3 billion in the making, closing its acquisitions of PRA and ReSearch Pharmaceutical Services to create what it says is the world's fourth-largest CRO.

From now on, RPS will operate as PRA's Strategic Solutions Division, with former chief Dan Perlman departing and PRA CEO Colin Shannon taking the helm at the merged company. Combined, the two CROs employ nearly 10,000 people in at least 80 countries.

RPS will bring its self-described "embedded" clinical development services, under which its researchers work alongside clients' staffs, and, along with PRA's expertise in traditional programmatic outsourcing, the combined company is ready to compete with the titans of the CRO world, Shannon said.

"We have a supportive long-term partner in KKR and the combination with RPS makes PRA a stronger organization, offering our customers a more comprehensive range of services through our expanded capabilities and therapeutic expertise," Shannon said in a statement. "As a division of PRA, the RPS Strategic Solutions Division will continue to operate as RPS has previously, which should enable a seamless integration with absolutely no disruption for our clients."

Following a July deal announcement, KKR took RPS off Warburg Pincus' hands for an undisclosed sum, three years after Warburg bought RPS for $227 million. In June, KKR snatched PRA for $1.3 billion, following a bidding war and possible red herring IPO filing from then-owner Genstar Capital.

Both CROs have focused on Asia this year, as RPS has launched a joint venture with Japan's Asklep to expand its presence in that country's growing drug development market, and PRA kicked off a JV with China's WuXi PharmaTech ($WX) to cash in on demand there.

- read the announcement