Fullerton Health calls off IPO plans

Firm cites current volatile market as reason for move, after planned listing was delayed by complaints

Fullerton Health has called off plans for a share market listing following the long delay generated in part by anonymous complaints about the medical firm's business model.

The complaints to the authorities prompted several queries from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Singapore Exchange about its business practices.

This meant the planned initial public offering (IPO) timed for October was considerably delayed, forcing the firm to call it off today given the more volatile market conditions prevailing now.

The IPO would have been one of the biggest this year, with the firm valued at around $1.13 billion.

The five-year-old company provides corporate healthcare in five economies. Most of its revenue is from Singapore, where it has a panel of about 600 doctors, with just over half being general practitioners.

Its Indonesia operations is bigger in terms of the number of people on its schemes. It is also in Australia, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

Group deputy chief executive Daniel Chan told The Straits Times on Friday that the firm had wanted to launch the IPO before the United States presidential election made the market so volatile.

It put up its prospectus at the end of September and had expected to see the shares trading by the middle of last month.

But the spate of anonymous letters to the authorities, purportedly from concerned groups of doctors and investors, derailed the plan.

The complaints centred largely on how the firm takes a 15 per cent cut of doctors' fees under its managed care services.

The new Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines released by the Singapore Medical Council in September appears to frown on third-party administrators taking a percentage of the bill, which is the common practice in the industry. This new code takes effect on Jan 1.

The letters questioned if this would affect Fullerton's business.

Another point raised was that one major insurer provides almost half of Fullerton's local revenue, while another complaint noted that its exposure to the Chinese market made it "risky".

Group chief financial officer Ramesh Rajentheran said: "The queries came in staggered. They were not difficult questions, but it takes time to answer; we wanted to be thorough and many people had to review it."

"Our understanding is that the majority, if not all, are anonymous", and that "they are surprisingly repetitive".

Dr Rajentheran said the problem was not the allegations, which the firm said were addressed, but the delay they caused.

The share market is no longer buoyant and listing now could result in the shares trading below the launch price, he added.

Dr Chan said December is not a good time to list as many people are on holiday.

"We will do an IPO when the time is perfect for us. Not when it is uncertain," he added.

This could occur as early as January, Dr Chan noted, adding that the firm did not need the cash following a $100 million bond issue in June.

Dr Rajentheran said at least the exercise has sparked interest from institutional investors.

When contacted, the MAS said: "As a matter of policy, MAS does not comment on our dealings with individual parties."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2016, with the headline 'Fullerton Health calls off IPO plans'. Print Edition | Subscribe