Gyrus Capital wants to extend the reach of its latest acquisition, Swiss healthcare platform Consulcesi Group, across all of Europe and then globally, said partner Guy Semmens. The after-effects of the covid pandemic are helping drive interest in such businesses, he told PE Hub Europe.
Gyrus, a Geneva-based private equity company focused on middle-market healthcare and sustainability, bought Consulcesi alongside the firm’s founders and management in early July. Consulcesi, based in Balerna, is a provider of continuous medical education, legal services, data analytics and digital marketing to the healthcare industry.
“We like it because it’s entrepreneur-built, owned and led,” said Semmens. “We like it because the medical profession is resilient – it’s not exposed to the ups and downs of the consumer world. We like it because there is a digital transformation going on. You can get a higher quality product to more people at a low cost.
“It’s healthcare, but it’s also sustainability because reducing cost and increasing access at a reduced cost is part of what we’re trying to do in the world. It’s a super business in a sector we believe will be resilient, whatever is coming in the next 12 months or so.”
Consulcesi is predominantly active in Switzerland and Italy, with some operations in the UK and Brussels. But that could soon change – despite the challenges inherent in the fragmented European healthcare industry, where “nothing’s easy to get across borders”, said Semmens.
“Language is an issue, regulation is an issue, culture is an issue,” he said. “But fundamentally, it’s the same product. When you’re teaching people about a new drug, a new operation process, a new piece of medical equipment, yes, you’ll have to do it in German, French and Italian. But it’s the same bit of kit and it’s the same body. The core materials are broadly the same.
“If you talk to Pfizer, or Novartis or Glaxo, they look at the world, right? They don’t look at Italy, or France or Germany. If they’re going to sell a pill to the world, then they’ve got to go through the local regulation, rulebook of local compliance, quality control, maybe production, maybe GDPR issues and all the rest of it. Those could be local, but they’re looking at a global solution. That’s how we’re going to try and build that business.”
The plan for Consulcesi is to expand beyond its current markets “so that it is a pan-European covering and eventually a global covering, because the need and desire is there in every market”, said Semmens.
The same obstacles that hinder cross-border growth in the European healthcare industry could provide one avenue for Consulcesi to expand, on top of organic growth.
“Then there’s an acquisition play, where can you accelerate by picking up businesses in other countries that suffer from the same issue, which is being nationally focused,” said Semmens. “The more content you put through the platform, the more engagement you get from your healthcare professionals, and the more that will drive value.”
Getting in the door
The digitalisation factor also drove Gyrus’s interest in the company. It could help create even more deals in the sector as the shift online opens new opportunities.
“The founder has gone partly digital and needs to go through the rest of that transfer process, which we will help him with,” said Semmens. “He’s about halfway through. The revenues are about half and half. But once you go digital, the number of things you can do with it is materially different. Once the whole thing is online, you can see what people are interested then focus which medical education you send to them. It gets very interesting.”
Covid also helped accelerate the need for digitalisation such businesses as Consulcesi.
“You used to have sales reps going to operating theatres and explaining to surgeons that they had a new machine, and how it worked,” said Semmens. “Forget that during covid – you weren’t allowed near a hospital, let alone an operating theatre. Now, if we’re post-covid, they’ve not gone back to saying this is okay. So how do you sell a new surgical procedure to a surgeon if you can’t get in front of him and show him? That needs a complete rethink.”
The same was true of big pharma companies developing new drugs, which used to rely on “hundreds of thousands of salespeople wandering around the world, explaining to doctors what their new product does”, said Semmens. “They can’t do that any more. So how do you get that information in front of not just doctors, but the relevant doctor? That is going to accelerate the transformation of that part of that business.”
As well as helping get products in front of potential customers, this move has a sustainable element as well, Semmens added. “There’s the cost of all these people jumping on planes. And when you’ve got salespeople in a room talking about selling life-saving drugs to doctors, it is open to considerable abuse and variation. If you can do it digitally, you can control what is said and how it’s presented.”