A press release last October about a partnership between Quintiles (NYSE: Q) and IMS Health Services (NYSE: IMS) turned out to be a huge precursor of bigger news to come.

The merger of Quintiles and IMS Health creating a $17 billion health services company announced early Tuesday can be traced back to a meeting between the two CEOs last year. Quintiles’ Tom Pike told analysts the two firms discovered quickly how well they could work together, and the CEO of IMS says the collaboration has already delivered “major wins.”

“Ari and I were in a room together,” Pike recalled in a conference call to discuss the deal, referring to IMS Chairman and CEO Ari Bousbib.

The two execs were talking about how the firms might work together with Quintiles providing its 34-year-history as a contract research organization and growing prowess in data use with IMS’ global ability to deliver IT and related services as well as data analysis.

Said Bousbib: “Together we will grow faster.”

The initial meeting “was instrumental bringing us together,” Pike explained, and “since that time found our teams were really able to work together.”

He cited “shared vision” and “complimentary” assets. The two executives quickly saw that together they could “create huge opportunities.”

The goal of the merger is to develop a “fundamentally different partner” for pharmaceutical and life science companies seeking to develop more drugs at a time of increasing costs and growing regulatory demands for better performance as well as cost justifications.

“The backdrop for our business is strong,” Pike insisted, even though the CRO industry does face challenges such as costs, recruiting talent, and finding patients for clinical trials.

Pike said Quintiles was dealing from a “position of strength” as was IMS. They decided to “do it now,” he stressed.

Pike will answer to Bousbib, who will serve as the chairman and CEO of the combined company. He and his future boss seemed relaxed in briefing analysts, and they referred to each other by first name.

Not a big deal, perhaps, but they made clear that they and the two companies’ work forces were already forming a team.

“This is based on having worked together I guess half a year now, Ari?”

“Yeah,” Bousbib replied.

“We have a great opportunity now.”

Bousbib stressed earlier that the “alliance” – not a true joint venture, a point stressed by Pike – had already “produced a number of major wins” and they had multiple “:studies conducted together.”

“We just work together better,” he explained.

Pike called the partnership “not a true joint venture but a powerful one that gives us a lot of confidence.”

Already, Quintiles can present clients access to IMS services and experts “at our fingertips without agency costs in between” that would heighten expenses. Pike said the alliance enabled the companies to “put a value proposition in front of our customers.”

“We very quickly started seeing some benefits” such as in market share and sales, Pike noted.

“We’re already on the way.”

In his view, Quintiles IMS will have a huge impact, creating the leading CRO and related services firm in terms of “global coverage for clinical trials” such as patient recruitment.

Then there is the data. Quintiles has invested heavily in data analytics itself, but Bousbib described IMS as the “original big data company.”

When the two firms “develop intellectual property,” said Pike, “imagine how powerful that will be.”

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