Dubai healthcare group plans share sale as it looks to India

$300m medical complex will open in Kerala next month.

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The Dubai-based group Aster DM Healthcare is in talks with bankers over a planned US$200 million share sale as it targets India's $80 billion healthcare sector.
The company has consulted with JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch to advise on the planned share sale. The stock could be listed in Dubai, Mumbai or London.
The company currently operates hospitals, clinics and pharmacies under the Medcare, Aster and Access brands in the UAE and the Arabian Gulf. It is in the process of opening three hospitals in the UAE.
Next month it is expected to open the first phase of a $300m medical complex in the southern Indian state of Kerala.
The 570-bed Aster Medcity would start taking patients from February 24, offering cardiology, oncology, orthopedics, neurology, gastroenterology and nephrology specialities in the first phase, said DM's chairman Dr Azad Moopen.
The 500-bed second phase would cater to women and child specialities among others. Scheduled for completion in five years, the Kerala complex would include a four-star hotel targeted at medical tourists from the Gulf, Africa and South East Asia.
"A large number of high-tech procedures cannot be done here [in the UAE]," said Dr Moopen. "Not because of a lack of money or resources or equipment but because of a lack of skilled people and the number of patients."
While availability of medical staff is not a problem in India, it is in the UAE. Dr Moopen said the UAE faced a major headache because of a lack of nurses.
"The shortage of doctors as well as nurses and technicians in the UAE is a huge problem," he said. Among the physicians, pediatricians and radiologists are in high demand.
According to a November report from the consultants Colliers International, the UAE has one of lowest ratios for nurses per patient in the Gulf, lower than in Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain, and lags behind other Gulf countries in the average ratio of physicians.
Dr Moopen said that less than 10 per cent of the doctors and other medical staff across the Aster DM Healthcare hospitals in the UAE were recruited from the local pool. As a result, salaries of medical staff had increased by 10 ro 30 per cent in the past three years because of the rising cost of living in the UAE.
Last year DM Healthcare acquired majority stakes in pharmacy chains in Jordan's Orange group and Kuwait's Yambuia Al Khaleej chain. and it has been looking at acquiring a mid-cost clinic chain with eight facilities in the Philippines. About one in five of the group's staff came from the Philippines, Dr Moopen said.
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