Leading US-based contract research organisation (CRO) Kendle more than doubled its operating income to$52.8 million last year, as net service revenues climbed 40.3% to $397.6 million.

Operating income was 163.9% higher than in 2006, giving an operating margin of 13.3% compared with 7.1% in the previous year.

This was in line with Kendle’s guidance for 2007 while earnings per diluted share (EPS), at $1.26 ($0.58 in 2006), were at the lower end of the revised forecast ($1.25 to $1.35) given by Kendle at the third-quarter stage. Net service revenues for the year were expected to be between $390 and $400 million.

Half of the reported revenues for 2007 came from North America, with Europe close behind at 42%, Latin America generating 5% of the total and the Asia/Pacific region 3%. Kendle’s top five customers in revenue terms accounted for 25% of total net service revenues compared with 28% in 2006.

In the fourth quarter of 2007, operating income was $15.2 million, or 14.6% of net service revenues, against a $1.76 million loss in the same quarter last year. EPS were $0.43 on a diluted basis compared with a US$0.32 loss per share in Q4 2006. Net service revenues (which exclude reimbursable out-of-pocket expenses) rose by 20.7% to $104.3 million.

New business awards for the quarter were $174 million, a 6% increase over the same quarter of 2006. Contract cancellations were around $32 million. As of 31 December 2007, total business authorisations were worth $869 million, an all-time company high and up by 32% on year-end 2006 (+5% versus Q3 2007).

Gross new business awards of $644 million for 2007 showed growth of nearly two times the reported rate for the CRO sector, Kendle noted.

“Demonstrating our continued focus on project delivery and operational excellence in support of our customers’ clinical development goals, we grew above the market for the fourth consecutive year,” commented chairman and chief executive officer Candace Kendle. “In particular, our increased scale and competitiveness in winning and executing mega-trials was a significant contributor to our success and positions us well to deliver improved earnings and profitability for our shareholders as we move forward.”

Kendle is projecting net service revenues of $450 million to $460 million and earnings per share of US$1.90 to $2.07 for 2008.