Scope for Singapore firms in China's healthcare

China's policy reforms, ageing populations and more affluent and sophisticated consumers have created increased opportunities for Singapore firms in not just its healthcare sector, but the entire eco-system, said International Enterprise (IE) Singapore.

More have entered other areas, such as healthcare infrastructure, healthcare systems and healthcare solutions like diagnostics devices and data analytics, said Mr Lee Yee Fung, group director of the lifestyle business group in the government agency that helps Singapore firms expand overseas.

He told The Straits Times that the agency has, to date, helped more than 30 Singapore firms expand their presence in China's healthcare market.

 

"We expect the number to increase in the coming years as China works to drive growth and efficiency in its healthcare sector," Mr Lee added, as he listed some examples.

They include: HistoIndex with its optical medical imaging equipment in Beijing and Hangzhou; Sincere Healthcare Group with its obstetrics and gynaecological services in Xiamen; and Dentalthon Medtech with its manufacturing plant in Guangzhou for invisible braces.

China's healthcare expenditure hit 3.2 trillion yuan (S$700 billion) in 2013, quadrupling its 2003 value, according to Deloitte last year. It forecast the figure to nearly double to 6.2 trillion yuan by 2020.

Analyst Li Fuli, of Zero Power Intelligence market consultancy, said foreign healthcare operators are expanding in China as the government frees up the sector.

Recent moves include a pilot scheme introduced in 2014 that allows wholly owned foreign hospitals in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and four provinces in Jiangsu, Fujian, Guangdong and Hainan.

He said while US companies have dominated the foreign players entering China's healthcare market in recent years, Singapore firms are also gaining a foothold thanks to the country's reputable medical sector.

"Also, Singapore firms have extensive experiences operating in China, which may give them an advantage," he told The Straits Times.

An OCBC bank report last month cited how Singapore's Raffles Medical Group entered a joint project last May to develop a 400-bed international general hospital in Shanghai's Pudong area by 2018.

Kor Kian Beng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2016, with the headline 'Scope for S'pore firms in China's healthcare'. Print Edition | Subscribe