At one point the company was owned by Merck and then Madison Dearborn Partners.
"The type of acquisitions we do are what we call tuck-in acquisitions," explained VWR's CEO and president, Manuel Brocke-Benz. "We pay very reasonable multiples there because those are mainly family-owned companies that have a generational change where the kids don't want to continue to run the business."
"Those are very private deals, individually negotiated, and you don't pay the prices that you would see otherwise," Brocke-Benz said.
In considering its clients among the education, industrial and pharmaceuticals sectors, Brocke-Benz said the the latter category is furnishing VWR much business. There's been a ramp-up in research as the pharmaceutical industry strives to innovate its way back to bigger profits.
With a company like VWR, which does so much business in Europe, some investors might anticipate the strong dollar would be an impediment. Not so, said, Brocke-Benz. "The dollar as such hasn't affected us as much because most of the customers buy in the local currencies, and there's only a fraction of the product that we need to import from the U.S."
The only impact, he said, is the "optics" when you have to translate the numbers for earnings reports.
Clearly, some investors seem to agree that VWR is performing well: Its share price has risen from an IPO level of $21 to about $28. That confirms the thinking behind the IPO, said Brocke-Benz: "We are the independent solutions provider to the life sciences and industrial space, and ... we are a fast-growing company outgrowing the market."