Despite a global pandemic, volatile markets, and an uncertain future, Chinese startup WeDoctor is planning to move forward with a Hong Kong initial public offering. As one of the country’s largest online healthcare providers, they expect to raise between $500 million and a billion with their IPO and have invited investment banks JPMorgan Chase & Co, Credit Suisse Group AG, and CMB International to lead the effort. The details may change, people familiar with the situation say, as discussions are still ongoing.
From its humble beginnings as a digital booking platform in 2010, WeDoctor has grown into an organization that offers everything from insurance policies to healthcare home devices. After watching how healthcare worked in China, artificial intelligence expert Jerry Liao Jieyuan founded the cloud company to ease some of the pain points. In a 2018 interview with Asian Scientist Magazine, he spoke about his inspiration for starting his organization.
“Seeing a doctor in China is not easy. Every day hundreds of patients queue for hours to get an appointment or buy slots of scalpers at extra fees,” Jieyuan said. "These patients, who are already in pain, travel many hours to get to a big city hospital and, upon arrival, have to fight for an appointment for a doctor."
With investors like Goldman Sachs, Tencent Holdings, and Hillhouse Capital Group, the firm has raised a billion dollars over nine funding rounds. Jieyuan and his team hope to compete with both big names like the Alibaba Group and small startups alike in the digital health space, and this influx of capital will help them get there. WeDoctor is still contemplating specific questions, such as whether it will include its cloud business – which houses patient information and government data – in its IPO.
WeDoctor has over 210 million registered users that access their online appointment booking, prescriptions, and diagnostic services. The firm has also established partnerships with approximately 3,200 hospitals and 360,000 doctors. The healthcare provider did its part to help patients during the COVID-19 outbreak – including building a platform that supported 1.4 million consultations with medical professionals within a month of its start.
Beijing has big plans for China's healthcare industry and unveiled the country's blueprint for "Healthy China 2030" in 2016. As part of that commitment, the nation committed to improving public health crisis preparedness and response capabilities, so they were on par with developed countries. Along with those plans, the government also projects the healthcare market to be worth $2.3 trillion in a decade.
Over the next ten years, firms like WeDoctor will play an important role in ushering in China's underdeveloped healthcare industry into the future. The health provider was last valued at $5.5 billion and is aiming to hold its float in late 2020 or early 2021.