Averion International, the US-based contract research organisation (CRO) specialising in oncology, cardiovascular disease and medical devices, reported a net operating loss of US$31.4 million for the fourth quarter of 2008, including a US$31.3 million non-cash charge for goodwill and intangible-asset impairment.

The CRO sustained a net operating loss of US$1.06 million in the fourth quarter of 2007. It said the impairment charges in the latest quarter would have no effect on the company’s business operations or liquidity.

Net service revenues were US$16.0 million in the fourth quarter, 26.7% more than in the same period of 2007. Averion attributed the growth mainly to the expansion of its overseas operations following the acquisition of Swiss CRO Hesperion in October 2007.

For the whole of 2008, net service revenues rose by 90.4% year on year to US$66.4 million, which included revenues of US$35.9 million from Europe on the back of the Hesperion acquisition. The net operating loss for the full year was US$31.8 million compared with a net operating loss of US$2.20 million for 2007.

During the year, Averion “began to see the positive impact of our expanded global footprint in the number of new business opportunities we have been asked to bid on”, noted chief executive officer Dr Markus Weissbach.

“We are also pleased to have generated positive cash flow from operating activities, since this is an important measure of our operational success despite the significant costs we incurred to integrate the operations and systems of Hesperion Ltd. and Averion,” he said.

Averion expects these positive operational and financial trends to continue during 2009 “as our management team can fully focus on the geographic and operational leverage provided by the merger with Hesperion”, Weissbach added.

Net revenues for the first quarter of 2009 are projected at US$16 million to US$16.4 million. Averion signed new business contracts worth more than US$25 million during the quarter, a 49% increase on the number of newly signed contracts in Q1 2008, it pointed out.