It seems as if almost every other week a new healthcare megamerger is announced that is supposed to transform the industry.
From Walmart-Humana to CVS-Aetna – to the recent announcement in the Dallas market around Baylor, Scott & White and Memorial Hermann – the continuous message is that disruption has arrived and the walls of traditional M&A are falling down. Last year, there were 579 deals for U.S. healthcare targets, the second highest total on record. Why is healthcare M&A so hot?
In the healthcare industry, companies are using M&A as a strategy to adapt and respond to a rapidly changing industry environment. Faced with a shifting technological landscape, they are looking for outside expertise and systems to remain competitive. And in private equity, which is investing in healthcare at a rapid rate, attractive margins and profitability are driving them to certain healthcare sub-sectors.
A recent survey of 100 healthcare M&A dealmakers uncovered several insights to understand what’s going on in this market. These are the top trends.
A strong economy and low interest rates have significantly improved access to capital. Many companies have paid down debt, stockpiled cash, and are now in a position to spend. From a dry powder position, conditions are ideal for healthcare organizations to evolve through acquisitions, though increased access to capital has created more competition and pushed multiples to all-time highs.
As a result, the shortage of financially attractive acquisition targets is currently the biggest challenge in healthcare M&A. These challenges – high valuations, excessive competition and short timelines for due diligence – have created a seller’s market. The dearth of acquisition targets is further exacerbated by the fact that there simply aren’t many healthcare companies with updated technology/IT systems and additional investment must be factored into the deal model.
2. Heightened competition and prices are spurring healthcare companies to joint ventures
Amid heightened competition and pace of transformation, healthcare companies are turning to joint ventures and alliances to expand into new markets and grow top-line revenue more quickly — and with less hassle than pure M&A. An overwhelming majority of our respondents (79 percent) told us they expect to pursue alliances, partnerships, and joint ventures in the next 12 to 18 months.
While alliances come with their own set of challenges, they allow organizations to realize value earlier by avoiding some of the incredibly challenging and time-consuming aspects of M&A deals, such as fully integrating infrastructures, cultures, and technology. JVs can also be a means of accessing new technology. The most prominent benefits of partnerships and joint ventures, respondents told us, is the opportunity to access outside technology or expertise (57 percent said this). In a world that increasingly favors a digital-first approach, quicker access to new technology could be game-changing for some organizations.
Technology has emerged as one of the central forces – if not the most important force of all – shaping acquirers’ M&A strategies in healthcare. An overwhelming majority of our survey respondents, 93 percent, say technology and systems integration challenges are creating added complexity in the healthcare industry. Also, more than a third of our survey respondents (36 percent) said the fast pace of technological change would pose the greatest challenge to healthcare companies over the next one to three years.
In the context of M&A, this raises the importance of technology and digital due diligence in the targeting phase and makes it critical to plan how acquired companies will be able to adapt, or disrupt, using technology going forward.
To be sure, buyers said they are looking for acquisitions capable of evolving with the rapidly shifting environment – or, those capable of proactively transforming that environment themselves. In that sense, the emergence of new digital tools is seen as a prime opportunity: 48 percent of respondents said one of their top two strategic drivers for making healthcare acquisitions was the chance to disrupt incumbents using technology. And healthcare IT was the subsector most likely to be invested in, prioritized ahead of providers, staffing, and even home health.
A wide range of technologies is seen as having potential to advance the industry. Among our survey respondents, the technologies deemed most attractive were mobile tools (49 percent), data analytics capabilities (37 percent), and the use of blockchain (30 percent). Wearables, sensors and trackers (25 percent), and telehealth tools (20 percent) – all of which intersect with the mobile space – are also drawing interest.
Technology comes with its fair share of challenges, especially integration in a healthcare setting. But it can also fuel an organization’s competitiveness and ability to adapt to disruption in the future. Read the full report, “Reshaping Healthcare M&A: How Competition & Technology are Changing the Game,” to access the complete findings.
Source: DBJTags: acquisitions, healthcare company mergers, joint ventures, m&a deals, medical technology, private equity investment