China Renaissance makes healthy hire from CIMB

With an eye on China's growing health needs, the investment bank brings in a veteran sector expert to focus on IPOs, M&A and private placements in the healthcare industry.

Joe Lai, a veteran of the healthcare sector, has joined China Renaissance from CIMB as the Chinese investment bank looks to a sector that is growing in importance as China's population ages.

Based in Hong Kong, Lai reports to Jason Lam, head of China Renaissance International, the unit that encompasses its Hong Kong and US operations. He is a managing director in the investment banking department and joined in early December, a Hong Kong-based spokesman told FinanceAsia.

A growing emphasis on wellness and lifestyle has transformed the business and investment landscape, as China's growing middle class spends to eat healthily and take supplements to prolong life and fight illness. Consulting firm PwC forecast China's healthy food market will grow to Rmb 100 billion ($14.6 billion) in the next few years to 2020.

With the demographic issues emerging from the one-child policy, China presents an economic opportunity for those interested in solving the health challenges of a vast ageing population. According to official estimates, there were 212 million Chinese people over 60, or 16% of the population, by 2014. By 2025 there will be 316 million people over 60, or almost one in four of the population.

China Renaissance said Lai would focus on initial public offerings, mergers and acquisitions and private placement transactions primarily for healthcare companies.

The company said Lai would work with his onshore colleagues, including Kevin Xie, the Shanghai-based head of healthcare and life science and a former banker with Credit Suisse between 1998 and 2005. Lam also joined China Renaissance from Credit Suisse, where he was the head of Asia technology group.

During his career with CIMB, Lai led the Hong Kong listings of Modern Dental in 2015 and Union Medical Healthcare in 2016. He was a managing director and head of healthcare investment banking with the Malaysia lender. Prior to that, he was a M&A banker with BOC International, responsible for cross-border deals.

Founded in 2004, China Renaissance, known as Huaxing in mandarin Chinese, is a major player in the country’s technology sector and advised on a number of high-profile deals, including the $2 billion listing of e-commerce giant in 2014 and the 2015 megamerger that helped create Didi Chuxing, the Chinese answer to Uber.

Despite being tipped as a sector to watch amid demographic concerns, healthcare M&A activity in Asia ex-Japan dropped to $26.5 billion last year, down from $36.4 billion the previous year, according to Dealogic. IPO revenue also moderated for the same period, falling from $7.14 billion to $5.43 billion.

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