- Healthcare services provider UDG Healthcare forecast annual earnings per share growth of 7-9% after its first-quarter profits improved.

'The group has made a good start to the financial year with constant currency profit before tax for the quarter to 31 December well ahead of the same quarter last year,' UDG Healthcare said.

Its Ashfield unit's operating profit was significantly ahead, driven by 'good' underlying growth and the benefit of 2019 acquisitions.

The communications and advisory division continued to perform strongly, with operating profit significantly ahead, while Sharp's operating profit was ahead of a strong comparative quarter.

For the full year through September, UDG Healthcare said it expected to post constant currency adjusted diluted earnings per share of between 7% and 9%, ahead of last year's IFRS15 basis EPS of 47.3c.

'The group's guidance reflects the impact of IFRS162, which was not included in 2019 financial year EPS, the recent disposal of Ashfield's pharmacovigilance business, and an expected higher effective tax rate for the group than last year due to an increasing proportion of profits being generated in the US,' it added.

'The group's strong balance sheet allows it to make further strategic acquisitions as those opportunities arise, complementing its continued underlying profit growth.'

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