PRA posts a big quarter despite the bite of currency fluctuations

PRA CEO Colin Shannon

PRA Health Sciences ($PRAH) shook off the effects of a surging dollar to pull off 7% revenue growth in the first quarter, kicking off the year with its largest ever backlog.

The Raleigh, NC, CRO grossed $332 million on the quarter, beating out the $311.4 million it made in the same period last year. And PRA's net income nearly tripled to $17.2 million in Q1, the company said.

But currency disparities took a roughly 3% chunk out of PRA's revenue on the quarter, and the company is dialing down its 2015 projections to account for exchange rates. The CRO is now expecting between $1.3 billion and $1.4 billion on the year, good for roughly 10% annual growth at midpoint.

Despite the dimmed guidance, PRA believes its business has never been healthier. The company inked $398 million in new contracts on the quarter, posting a book-to-bill ratio of 1.2. Now, heading into the second quarter, PRA is carrying a $2.2 billion backlog, a company record.

"We are off to a strong start in 2015, and I am pleased by our first quarter financial results that demonstrate a continuation of the solid momentum we achieved in 2014," CEO Colin Shannon said in a statement.

Since going public with a $306 million IPO last year, PRA has been working to raise its profile among the world's largest CROs. The current company came to be thanks to KKR ($KKR), which won a bidding war and picked up the CRO for $1.3 billion in 2013. A few months later, KKR paid an undisclosed sum for ReSearch Pharmaceutical Services and merged its two acquisitions. By year's end, the company had acquired CRI Lifetree to bolster its piecemeal CRO's early-stage capabilities, completing KKR's buy-and-merge plan.

- read the results