Investing in healthcare: 3 growth stories

At the latest Healthcare Innovation boot camp, Bart Diels, Head of Health & Care at Gimv, gave a guest lecture on how the investment company guides healthcare players along their growth path, based on its own strategy and specific Health & Care strategy. Three different players, three different growth stories: ‘buy-and-build’, ‘hub-and-spoke’ and international expansion. Our students asked pertinent questions.

Gimv lecture during Healthcare Innovation Boot Camp

Healthcare falls within one of Gimv's four investment platforms. “When we invest in a company, we aim to create a sustainable, long-term relationship,” says Bart Diels. “For our healthcare pillar, this means a strategic focus on the quality of the healthcare, patient satisfaction and reducing the cost of medical services. The result is a win-win situation for all the parties involved: the patient, the company we are investing in, us as investors and society as a whole.”

Strategically diverse and non-Belgian

Our population is ageing, we are seeing more chronic diseases, the government has a constantly shrinking budget, technological innovations are moving at a fast pace and patients are becoming increasingly empowered and better informed. Bart Diels: “For example, if a specialist hospital wishes to keep growing in this constantly changing landscape, it can turn to an investor such as Gimv. Not only do we finance their growth plan, we also think along with them strategically. This strategic exercise can take many different forms. The three cases in this lecture embody this diversity: with the hospital group Almaviva Santé from the South of France, we applied a ‘buy-and-build’ strategy to further expand the market leadership in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region and created a second cluster around Paris, for the Dutch company Equipe Zorgbedrijven we expanded the ‘hub-and-spoke’ system and focused on vertical integration and for the Swiss med-tech company Spineart the emphasis lay more on product innovation and international expansion.”

Pertinent questions

The three growth stories elicited numerous questions and reactions.

Gimv lecture during Healthcare Innovation Boot Camp“Why isn't this kind of thing possible in Belgium yet?”

Bart Diels: “Specialist hospitals are far more commonplace in the neighbouring countries. However, even in our own country we are seeing initiatives in which doctors are joining forces in group practices. A good example of this is Benedenti, a range of group practices for dental care in Flanders which we invested in.”

Gimv lecture during Healthcare Innovation Boot Camp“I imagine that not all the doctors at the hospital in the South of France were equally happy to be merged into a larger group. How did you handle this?”

Bart Diels: “In general, the development was very well received. This is because Almaviva fosters a culture in which the distance between the doctors and the medical council on the one hand and the general management on the other is as small as possible, to ensure a rapid and efficient decision-making process. However, you certainly do need to take sensitivities into account: transparent communication and a focus on growth will get you a long way.”

What did the audience think?

Professor Brecht Cardoen: “It's good to look beyond national borders”

Professor Brecht Cardoen (Vlerick)“For our students, it was good to look beyond national borders and see how and why people in the neighbouring countries have managed to achieve certain things which are still at the discussion stage in our own country. Not without good reason, the recurring factors in the Gimv cases are speed and scalability... Personally, I found it particularly interesting to see how Gimv managed to guarantee continuity of care with Equipe Zorgbedrijven by means of strategic integration.”

Joyce Goedmakers, Masters in General Management: “Respect for the company culture”

Masters student Joyce Goedmakers“My parents have a family business providing facility services and healthcare, so I know how important it is to respect an entrepreneur's individuality. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to discover that Gimv focuses not only on the financial aspects but also respects the culture of the companies in its portfolio. And despite having a master's degree in pharmacy, I was pleased that I could also follow the financial side of things. My Masters at Vlerick is bearing fruit,” (laughs).

Stéphanie Seghers, Masters in General Management: “Genuine added value”

Masters student Stéphanie Seghers“From my experience at a Dutch healthcare centre, I know that they focus more on the management aspect there. So I think it's great that Gimv is using its investments to further professionalise the healthcare sector. For me, this also confirms that, with my medical training – I'm a physiotherapist – and my training at Vlerick, I can offer genuine added value for healthcare companies.”

Quentin Vermeire, Masters in General Management: “My CV is ready!”

Masters student Quentin Vermeire“It's great that a financial stakeholder spoke at the boot camp too. Gimv brought us new insights from an investment standpoint, which many of us had not yet seen in our university studies. I trained as a biomedical engineer but as a result of my traineeships and experiences, I realised that I was more interested in strategy, healthcare investments and launching innovative technology than actually researching and developing the technology. I've already got my CV ready for Gimv!” (winks).

CASE 1: Almaviva Santé

What? A group from the South of France which originally consisted of 7 private clinics

Growth path?

  • to confirm market leadership in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region by means of buy-and-build and to create a second cluster around Paris, to further expand and refine the range of medical services provided
  • no aggressive takeovers, but respect for the company culture.

Result? Almaviva grew from 7 to 30 hospitals and is the 5th largest group of private clinics in France. In October 2017, the group was sold to Antin Infrastructure Partners.
More info about the Almaviva case 

CASE 2: Equipe Zorgbedrijven

What? Dutch provider of specialist healthcare, with a network of 24 locations across the Netherlands.

Growth path?

  • vertical integration: prevention - intervention - rehabilitation
  • focus on more extensive specialisation and new treatment areas
  • the ‘hub-and-spoke’ system: the large centres with operating theatres are being supplemented with increasing numbers of smaller satellite and referral centres.

Result of this ongoing partnership?
Greater operational excellence, the realisation of their growth strategy partly through the acquisition of physiotherapist networks and new hubs in Eindhoven and Amsterdam, which were completed successfully in the spring of 2016 and 2017 respectively.
More info about the Equipe case 

CASE 3: Spineart

What? Swiss med-tech company which specialises in medical spinal implants

Growth path?

  • further geographical expansion in selected markets such as Europe and the United States and tapping into new markets
  • strengthening the company's sales organisation and processes
  • the further development of innovative and disruptive products. 

Result of this ongoing partnership?
Visions were aligned via a ‘one-page game plan’ which lists both the priorities and the ‘not-to-dos’ as the starting point for highly structured growth. The turnover has now grown by 30% as a result.
More info about the Spineart case