(Bloomberg) -- WeDoctor, one of China’s biggest online health-care startups, has selected JPMorgan Chase & Co., Credit Suisse Group AG and CMB International to lead a Hong Kong initial public offering, people familiar with the deal said.
The startup could become one of the largest technology companies to brave volatile public markets in 2020. WeDoctor envisions raising at least $500 million and as much as $1 billion, one of the people said, asking to remain anonymous discussing a private deal. The details could change given that deliberations are ongoing, the people said. More banks may be invited to join the deal in future, one person said.
WeDoctor, backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd., joins a growing contingent of tech giants hoping to revolutionize a traditional health-care industry after the coronavirus pandemic underscored its shortcomings. The company is on the prowl for expansion capital and last month laid the foundation for a public debut by hiring finance overseer John Cai, formerly chief executive for AIA Group Ltd.’s operations in markets including China, Malaysia and Vietnam.
The startup, whose business spans insurance policies and medical supplies to online appointment-booking and clinics, was last valued at around $5.5 billion. It’s said to be targeting a float in late 2020 or 2021.
WeDoctor, JPMorgan and Credit Suisse representatives declined to comment. A CMB representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. IFR first reported on the selection.
Read more: Coronavirus Shows Scale of Task to Fix China’s Flawed Healthcare
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought inadequacies in the country’s medical care system into stark relief, exposing an over-reliance on big hospitals in major cities and flaws in how the state responds to emergencies, even with a mechanism built after the SARS outbreak in 2003. The startup has said it launched an online platform dedicated to treating coronavirus cases on Jan. 23 and has helped facilitate 1.4 million consultations with doctors in the month since it began.
Longer term, startups like WeDoctor could play a pivotal role in a nationwide effort to wrench its ailing healthcare sector into the modern age. Beijing envisions a 16 trillion yuan ($2.3 trillion) healthcare industry by 2030 and, in a blueprint laid out in 2016 called “Healthy China 2030,” vowed to improve public health emergency preparedness and response capabilities to match those of developed countries.
Read more: A $6 Billion China Startup Wants to Be the Amazon of Health Care
Founded by artificial intelligence maven Jerry Liao Jieyuan in 2010, WeDoctor aims to compete with both fellow startups and major corporations such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. in the burgeoning field of online healthcare.
It needs capital to expand. It has yet to decide whether to include its cloud business -- where sensitive patient information and government data reside -- in the envisioned Hong Kong public offering, people familiar with the matter have said.
WeDoctor counts China Development Bank Capital, Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co. and AIA as backers. The company said in a statement it connects 360,000 doctors with some 210 million registered users.
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