Parexel once again raised its financial guidance for fiscal 2008 as the US-based contract research organisation (CRO) came through with another strong set of quarterly results, lifting consolidated service revenues by 28.3 %.

Revenues for the third quarter of the fiscal year, which did not include reimbursement revenue, were US$245.3 million compared with US$191.2 million for the same quarter of fiscal 2007. Operating income for the quarter was 46.8% higher at US$22.7 million, boosted by a pre-tax restructuring benefit of US$860,000.

Parexel’s Consulting and Medical Communications Services (PCMS) business, which was a source of concern in fiscal 2007, continued on the road to recovery, reporting a 12.7% increase in service revenues to US$33.5 million.

The PCMS segment accounted for 13.6% of overall service revenues in the third quarter, still significantly below the 15.5% share it took in last year’s quarter. Gross profit was US$11.3 million, 27.1% higher than in the same period of fiscal 2007.

In the core Clinical Research Services (CRS) business, service revenues rose by 33.5% to US$191.6 million and made up 78.1% of the group total (75.0% in Q3 of fiscal 2007). CRS gross profit was US$65.0 million, up by 29.5%.

The technology division Perceptive Informatics (PII) brought in service revenues of US$20.3 million, 8.3% of the total (9.5%) and 12.4% ahead of the year-ago period. Gross profit slipped back 0.9% to US$7.7 million.

In geographical terms, the Asia/Pacific region continued its strong growth trend from a relatively modest base, helped by the US$50.9 million acquisition of Taiwan-based CRO Apex International Clinical Research in October 2007. Service revenues from Asia/Pacific countries were 57.0% higher at US$16.5 million.

Europe, Middle East and Africa were the biggest slice of the revenue cake, with a 24.1% increase to US$129.1 million. Service revenues from the Americas rose by 30.0% to US$99.7 million.

Parexel’s backlog grew by around 37% year-on-year and by 7% from the second quarter of fiscal 2008 to US$1.9 billion at the end of Q3. That included gross new business wins worth US$423.5 million during the latest quarter, offset by US$49.5 million in cancellations. The net book to burn ratio was 1.52 in the third quarter.

“From our perspective, industry dynamics remain positive,” commented Parexel’s chairman and chief executive officer, Josef von Rickenbach.

“Our backlog is within reach of the $2 billion mark, with healthy levels of new business wins from all three of our business segments contributing to this quarter’s results,” he added. “The new business proposal pipeline is robust, and the strength of our competitive position gives us confidence that we will continue to win significant levels of new business, helping us to achieve the goals that we have established for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2008 and beyond.”

Based on recent exchange rates, Parexel is now projecting consolidated service revenues of $947 million to $957 million and earnings per diluted share of US$0.94 to US$0.96 for the full year. The previous guidance, given at the second-quarter stage, was for service revenues of $935-$955 million and earnings per diluted share of $0.89-$0.92.