Grass isn’t always greener: Netcare to focus on resilient SA market amid UK exit

JOHANNESBURG — A pattern is slowly starting to develop in 2018 whereby the business opportunities in South Africa are starting to look more enticing than what they previously were over the last decade. Just last week, Aspen Pharmacare opted for South Africa – rather than Europe – in opening its R1bn drugs facility. Meanwhile, healthcare group Netcare already announced in March this year that it planned to exit the UK market amid cost and NHS pressures. But the company is now focusing on its more buoyant SA market, which helped keep its head well above water according to its latest results. – Gareth van Zyl

By John Bowker

(Bloomberg) — Netcare Ltd. said the South African healthcare market has returned to growth and will remain resilient, strengthening the hospital operator’s resolve to exit the U.K. and focus on its domestic business.

The company said in March that it plans to sell its U.K. interests after the private medical insurance market failed to recover from the 2008 financial crisis and its BMI Healthcare unit struggled under high rental costs. The Johannesburg-based company made a loss in the U.K. in the first half, partly caused by restructuring costs.

The U.K. slump was more than offset by Netcare’s South African operations, and overall adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization rose 8.1 percent to 2.1 billion rand ($172 million) in the six months through March, it said in a statement. Netcare raised the half-year dividend by 16 percent to 0.44 rand a share.

Netcare’s exit will leave Mediclinic International Plc and Life Healthcare Group Holdings Ltd. as South African companies operating in the U.K., in part to take advantage of overspill at the state-owned National Health Service.

Netcare shares declined 1 percent to 29.45 rand as of 10:02 a.m. in Johannesburg, valuing the company at 43 billion rand.

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