Etrials reports fourth-quarter losses

Staff writerMarch 6, 2009 

After two tumultuous years, etrials Worldwide has had some success righting itself. But the increase in new business in the fourth quarter was not enough for the Morrisville company to stem its losses.

Etrials, which develops software for drug research, reported Thursday a loss of about $5.5 million for the three months ended Dec. 31, or more than double the $2.6 million it lost in the same period a year earlier.

New bookings to provide software for clinical trials increased in the fourth quarter, but etrials won't be able to account for much of the new business until the trials start this year. At the same time, the company saw an increase in cancellation of projects under way as the declining economy forced drug makers to scale back at the end of the year, M. Denis Connaghan, etrials' chief executive, told analysts in a conference call.

"Etrials' fourth-quarter performance was reassuring in terms of new project bookings, backlog and a sharp reduction in operating expenses," Connaghan said, "[but] overall results for 2008 were mixed, with revenue being a disappointment."

Revenue dropped 26 percent to $3.7 million in the fourth quarter.

For the full year, etrials' losses more than doubled to $15.8 million. Revenue dropped about 28 percent to $16.3 million.

Connaghan joined etrials in mid-November to become the company's third CEO in two years. From October to January, at least eight executives and programmers resigned to join a nearby rival, the U.S. operations of Belgian company Unithink. Etrials has sued Unithink over the employees it has lost. The company now employs about 100, including about 80 in Morrisville.

Etrials reported financial results after the market closed Thursday. Shares closed at 70 cents Thursday.

sabine.vollmer@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8992

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