How ground-breaking Australian IVF research nurtured a listed company
Monash IVF Group has nurtured a public company from groundbreaking Australian research
JAMES Thiedeman has worked in the healthcare business since he was an 18-year-old nursing assistant in a private hospital in Brisbane.
Five years ago he took over as chief executive of the Melbourne-based Monash IVF group which focuses on the business of helping to create life. He exchanged a career in the private hospital business to a job focusing on medical clinics and sophisticated laboratories which store frozen embryos in cryopreservation tanks. Monash has just become one of the newest companies to list on the Australian Securities Exchange.
“I’m a refugee from the private hospital sector,” he says. “The healthcare sector has appealed to me from very early on in my career. After working for almost 20 years in the hospital sector, there was an opportunity for me to move upstream in the life continuum. Knowing the history of Monash, and the pedigree of the organisation, I jumped at the chance to work with its doctors, scientists and nurses.”
In 1973, scientists at Monash University achieved the world’s IVF fertilisation pregnancy. Last month, the privately owned Monash IVF group became the second IVF business to list on the ASX, raising some $316 million. The Monash IVF group has helped to produce more than 35,000 Australian babies over the past 40 years. Some 10,000 couples a year visit its 25 IVF clinics around the country and 10,000 women a year use its ultrasound services.
Thiedeman insists the listing will not change the group’s focus. “We will continue to focus on getting the best outcomes for our patients and growing our network of clinics,” he says. “We have a great reputation for having some of the best pregnancy success rates in the business and, as a result of that, patients come to us.”
Monash University sold its majority stake in the IVF business founded by its scientists to ABN Amro in 2007. The stake was bought in 2009 by private equity firm, Ironbridge. Australia’s largest IVF business, Virtus Health, listed in June last year and its success prompted Ironbridge to consider following suit. Monash earned $22m last year and its prospectus estimates it will report a net profit of $26m this year as it expands in Australia and Asia. About 40 doctors working with the group remain as shareholders.
Thiedeman says, the decision by many women to delay having children to pursue education and careers has led to an increase in demand for IVF services. “Women are not taking the decision to have children until they are into their 30s and they are finding having a child is a little bit more difficult.”
Monash expanded into Southeast Asia about 18 months ago, investing in a clinic business in Kuala Lumpur. “In Malaysia the fertility care sector looks like it did in Australia 20 years ago,” he says. “They are very much at the early stages of starting to require access to these services as women are staying in the workforce longer.”
He says the group plans to expand its business in Asia. “We see an increasingly wealthy middle class who have the capacity to pay for high quality healthcare close to home. That is what is driving the demand for our services. Monash IVF has a strong brand recognition and brand credibility in the Southeast Asian region which has worked very well for us.”
Thiedeman says the stockmarket listing will provide more “financial head room” to expand the business and its research into the latest IVF technologies. He says Monash has “led the charge” in developments such as single embryo transfer (as opposed to transferring several embryos which leads to multiple births) and in embryo screening. “Australian IVF clinics have some of the best outcomes in terms of pregnancy rates out of all the developed world,” he says.
James Thiedeman in one of the company’s sophisticated laboratories which store frozen embryos in cryopreservation tanks