Why WeDoctor took its $500m injection from unlikely sources

Two leading Hong Kong conglomerates, AIA Company and NWS Holdings, join CICFH as lead strategic investors in the Tencent-backed internet healthcare platform.

Eschewing more traditional financing avenues, Chinese healthcare unicorn WeDoctor has tied up financing from two seemingly unlikely sources – a property developer and an insurance giant.

The company announced on Tuesday its latest round of funding, worth some $500 million and valuing the start-up at some $5.5 billion, according to its statement. The funding round was led jointly by insurer AIA and developer New World Holdings, and an undisclosed investment from CICFH.

The deal underscores the potential in the underdeveloped healthcare market of a country with some 1.2 billion citizens. The investors, both based in Hong Kong, also see clear opportunities to expand their presence in the mainland.

Hangzhou-based WeDoctor develops online and mobile health solutions, including its Weiyi mobile apps which connect doctors and patients, and claims some 27 million monthly users. It's one of several companies disrupting China's healthcare market, which also include insurer Ping An's Good Doctor, which listed in Hong Kong earlier this month. WeDoctor has been tipped for an IPO in the second half of this year.

“We see this partnership as part of our ongoing ambition to interact with our customers at every important stage of their lives,” said John Cai, AIA’s regional chief executive in the statement. “We look forward to working together with WeDoctor to improve the provision of quality and affordable healthcare for millions of people across China” he continued.

AIA will become WeDoctor’s “preferred” provider of life and health insurance solutions after the agreement of a strategic partnership is completed. Insurers are eagerly embracing technology and big data to better manage risk and their exposure in an ageing world.

For NWS Holdings, the investment seems even more left field. Known as a leading property and infrastructure developer in Hong Kong and China, the addition of healthcare services to its investment portfolio has been a more recent development.

“NWS Holdings has been making substantial investments in the clinical and healthcare management sector. This investment in WeDoctor confirms our confidence in the prospect of this market,” executive director of NWS Holdings Brian Cheng said in the statement.

The Cheng family, which controls New World, has been at the forefront of a trend for a new generation of Hong Kong tycoons to more actively manage their empires in an attempt to unlock value. It's taking the same approach with its international jewellery empire, Chow Tai Fook.

WeDoctor's previous investors include private equity fund Hillhouse Capital, Goldman Sachs and Fosun Pharmaceutical. 

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