Drug testing firm sold in £20m deal

HFL, the leading UK sports forensic testing company based at Fordham near Newmarket, has been acquired by Quotient BioResearch Ltd from the Horserace Betting Levy Board for more than £20million.

HFL, the leading UK sports forensic testing company based at Fordham near Newmarket, has been acquired by Quotient BioResearch Ltd from the Horserace Betting Levy Board for £20.25million.

Quotient BioResearch, a consortium of investors which includes the senior management team at HFL, emerged as a front-runner from numerous tenders for the business and the two parties had been in negotiations since last November before completing the acquisition last week.

Formerly known as the Horseracing Forensic Laboratory, HFL added to a reputation for drug testing in sport by diversifying into pharmaceutical research and development services after moving into its existing 32-acre showpiece site in 1997.

The company currently has 130 employees and revenues to March this year are expected to exceed £10 million. The Horserace Betting Levy Board decided to put the business up for sale last year in order to “unlock some useful capital”, according to chief executive officer Sir Tristram Ricketts.

“HFL has been in our ownership for some considerable time and provides an excellent integrity service for British horseracing,” said Sir Tristram. “But we felt some time ago that we didn't need to own it to have that service.

“HFL has a five-year contract in place with British horseracing going forward and we can now invest in other things. We are very satisfied with the outcome.”

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Quotient BioResearch was founded in 2006 by Paul Cowan, former chief financial officer of Inveresk Research Group, with a view to developing a group of businesses - through acquisition - centred on high quality analytical and safety evaluation services. Primarily serving the global pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, its initial focus is on businesses providing early stage drug development services.

“HFL is the first acquisition for Quotient BioResearch and an excellent fit for our strategy of building a major presence in early stage drug development and related services,” said Mr Cowan.

“HFL's world-leading position in the field of drug surveillance testing is an excellent complement to its emerging position as a provider of high quality analytical services to the global pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. I look forward to working with its first class management and employees to further build on the success of these two businesses.”

David Hall, chief executive officer of HFL, said: “The strategic vision of Quotient BioResearch, combined with the recent successful diversification of HFL into the provision of drug development and sports supplement testing services, bodes well for the future continued success of HFL and its employees.”

Property companies Helical Bar and The Dencora Group are the two other consortium investors. Although there are no immediate development plans for the HFL site, according to Quotient BioResearch's business development director Dr David Griffiths, he said the property investors were interested in longer-term development opportunities and would probably submit planning applications in due course.