Singapore-Korea consortium buys Australian fertility clinic

SYDNEY/SEOUL: Singapore Medical Group Ltd and South Korea's CHA Healthcare Co Ltd have together bought a majority stake in Australia's fourth-largest fertility clinic operator, City Fertility Centre.

CHA said in a regulatory filing it paid A$22.1 million (US$17.8mil) for a 52% stake in the company, valuing City Fertility at A$42.5 million. Singapore Medical did not disclose a purchase price for the 13% stake it bought.

Falling fertility rates across the region is spurring growth and deal-making in the in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) industry.

"A growing number of delayed pregnancies among women (and) rising awareness pertaining to infertility ... are driving aggressive growth in the global IVF market," Singapore Medical Group Executive Director Beng Teck Liang said in the statement sent to the Singapore Securities Exchange.

Worldwide fertility rates have roughly halved since the 1960s, according to World Bank statistics, as more women in developed countries decide to have fewer children later in life.

That has policymakers across Asia's more affluent countries concerned, and offering subsidies for some fertility treatments, since slower population growth tends to crimp economic output.

Fewer children can compound the problem, as that leads to reduced spending on education and accompanying services, making it even more difficult to boost birth rates.

Singapore, Japan and South Korea have fertility rates of less than 1.5 births per woman, a level experts consider very low. Australia's fertility rate is 1.8.

Under the deal, the Singapore Medical and CHA consortium will acquire 65% of the Brisbane-based company, which operates seven clinics, mostly in eastern Australia.

Singapore Medical Group listed in 2009, has a market capitalisation of S$278 million ($212 million) and operates 36 medical centres in the city-state. The deal was announced outside market hours in Singapore.

CHA runs hospitals and fertility clinics in Korea, as well as facilities in Tokyo and Los Angeles.

Kyeong Wook Yoon, the chief executive officer of Seoul-based CHA, said the Australian investment gave the company access to markets across the Pacific Rim region.

City Fertility CEO Adnan Catakovic said on Thursday that the partnership would seek to grow in Australia, pursuing research partnerships with universities and expanding egg and sperm banks.

In related deals, CVC Capital Partners Fund VI last year paid $703 million for Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd womens' health businesses, including contraception and fertility products.

In 2016 Hungarian drugmaker Richter bought Swiss biotech company Finox Holding for $194 million. - Reuters
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