June 30, 2022

Loblaw Cos. Ltd. is shopping for well being clinic proprietor Lifemark Well being Group for $845-million, the corporate’s largest deal but to develop its presence within the healthcare companies market.

Lifemark, which is owned by Audax Personal Fairness, has greater than 300 clinics throughout the nation offering companies together with physiotherapy and chiropractic therapies, therapeutic massage remedy, occupational remedy and psychological well being care.

The acquisition is an element of a bigger technique for Loblaw, which owns the Buyers Drug Mart pharmacy chain.

“Buyers over the previous couple of years has been actually focusing extra on changing into a healthcare companies firm, with the position of pharmacists altering,” Buyers president Jeff Leger mentioned in an interview on Monday. “We noticed that explode through the pandemic with vaccination, testing, but in addition serving to Canadians who didn’t have entry to care throughout that time period. … We actually view ourselves as greater than a pharmacy.”

The corporate has in recent times been investing in different companies in a bid to personal a bigger piece of the Canadian healthcare market.

For instance, Buyers Drug Mart has experimented with providing companies akin to beauty dentistry and dermatology in some areas, and prior to now two years, the corporate has opened six clinics in Ontario below the Well being Clinic by Buyers model. In 2016, Loblaw acquired software program agency QHR Corp., which provides digital medical record-keeping for docs, for roughly $170-million. In 2020, the corporate invested $75-million for a minority stake in telemedicine supplier Maple Corp., a Toronto startup that noticed demand spike for its on-line medical companies through the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Loblaw’s controlling shareholders, the Weston household, have participated in two financing rounds for Canadian digital well being startup League Inc., in 2018 and 2019, by means of their personal holding firm Wittington Investments. And in 2020, Loblaw partnered with League to construct its PC Well being app, which offers companies to customers akin to dwell chats with registered nurses and “care navigators” offering healthcare referrals. The retailer additionally tied its PC Optimum loyalty program to the brand new app, providing factors for patrons who used it to finish health challenges, or who bought well being and wellness-related objects akin to nutritional vitamins and thermometers.

Mr. Leger mentioned there was “good utilization” of the app up to now, however didn’t disclose person numbers. He mentioned the corporate has seen curiosity in navigating entry to healthcare with digital instruments. Lifemark was one of many firm’s first associate clinics that allowed appointment reserving by means of the PC Well being app.

“We expect there’s a very fascinating hyperlink there with the shoppers we’re seeing on the pharmacy aspect,” he mentioned.

For instance, pharmacists see many purchasers who’re managing points with each continual and acute ache, both with over-the-counter or prescribed drugs.

“However we all know that generally the restoration course of can or ought to require some physiotherapy – I simply had some expertise with this final summer season, with a motorcycle crash,” Mr. Leger mentioned. “There’s a capability for individuals to get recommendation from the pharmacy aspect on utilizing medicines, but in addition perhaps transition to companies from physio or a kinesiologist.”

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The deal is topic to regulatory approvals, and the corporate expects it to shut within the second quarter of this 12 months.

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