UPS and Marken expand into European pharma

The pharmaceuticals logistics specialist Marken has embarked on an acquisition spree, buying three smaller courier companies in Central Europe. Marken, which is part of UPS, announced yesterday that it had purchased HRTL in Italy, HETO in Austria and Der Kurier in Hungary. The price paid for these companies was not disclosed.

None of these companies appear to be very large, however Marken explained its move as offering “core clinical trials logistics opportunities in Central and Eastern Europe. Italy, Hungary and Austria are important sources of drug manufacturing, particularly drugs which are manufactured in sterile format. Sterile drug products are particularly sensitive and require specific temperature conditions during transport to ensure stability. Eastern and Central Europe are also important locations for recruitment of clinical trial patients and this acquisition further strengthens Marken’s biologic sample services in the region.”

The logic behind the purchases seems to be the need to expand in-house depot services at large airports. This enables companies such as Marken to exercise greater control over the quality of service at the operational level. It is particularly the case that in the growing product area of biologics the products moved often have quite narrow temperature range and the logistics service provider must be sure that the samples or products carried have been handled properly.  

Yet it is worth noting that Marken now uses what it describes as “hybrid services” utilising the “UPS network and airline”. Whilst this is not surprising, it does represent an attempt by UPS to integrate its core parcel network into very high-performance services. As with its airport depot and handling services, Marken has to be sure that the UPS services deliver the operational consistency required.

Marken was not a transformational acquisition by UPS as the Atlanta-based giant had been active in pharmaceutical logistics for many years. However, it represented an entry into a part of the market – clinical trials and biologics – that the large networks had found difficult to adapt to. With Marken, UPS has a service offering in a sector that is demanding and growing fast. The question is, can UPS gain the synergies with the rest of business to justify the investment? 

Source: Transport Intelligence, July 16, 2019

Author: Thomas Cullen