7 Healthcare Private Equity Trends
1. PE is buying up distressed healthcare facilities. When asked where their firms would direct the most capital over the next six months, 17% of respondents investing in healthcare say investing in distressed businesses, making it the top-cited answer for this group. For PE firms, turning the tide for a distressed healthcare facility represents a significant value creation opportunity. As financial challenges continue to destabilize healthcare organizations, we can expect to see an uptick in PE investment.
2. Heightened risk exposure is slowing down deals. In line with the full respondent pool, respondents investing in healthcare cite risk exposure uncovered during due diligence as their top challenge to closing deals in the current investment environment. That’s no surprise, given PE’s interest in distressed healthcare assets — distressed M&A deals inherently come with more risk. At the same time, the general business environment is also riskier than usual due to heightened interest rates and inflation. PE firms looking to make a healthcare deal in this environment will likely be hyperaware of potential risks and cautious about agreeing to take them on.
3. Asset prices are expected to increase. Eighty-six percent of respondents who invest in healthcare expect asset prices to increase in the next six months, with 43% expecting assets to trade as much as 10-24% higher. As a result, we may see PE firms hesitating to take on deals as valuations trend higher. This outlook among fund managers and operating partners also drives home PE’s pre-pandemic thesis: that there’s a lot of opportunity for value creation in healthcare. Healthcare organizations and PE firms can work together to tackle challenges like the needs of the aging U.S. population and the healthcare industry’s hesitation to adopt new technologies, creating value for both patients and shareholders.
4. ESG assessments are integral to getting deals done. PE firms are evaluating ESG risk before making investment decisions. Eighty-four percent of respondents investing in healthcare say they have declined an investment opportunity because of ESG concerns. Surprisingly, respondents were more likely to report turning down an investment opportunity for environmental (33%) or governance (33%) reasons than for social reasons (26%). This may be due to the healthcare industry’s focus on the “S” in ESG via improving health equity, making them more advanced in social areas than governance and environmental. Overall, healthcare leaders need to recognize that private equity investors are looking for evidence of sound ESG practices as part of their criteria for evaluating investment opportunities.
5, PE is pushing top-line growth. Respondents investing in healthcare see top-line growth as more critical than bottom-line growth over the next 12 months. That’s not surprising, as top-line growth can be a better indicator of free cash flow and EBITDA. EBITDA is particularly important due to its role in determining PE multiples. As such, top-line growth is more aligned with generally used valuation methodology. The top line is also easier to grow aggressively and can be used to demonstrate the value a PE firm brings to a company, whereas the bottom line reflects costs outside of the PE firm’s control, such as labor expenses.
6. PE firms are prioritizing cost optimization in healthcare. Twenty percent of respondents investing in healthcare cite cash flow optimization as the value creation lever they deploy most frequently across their portfolios, making it their top response. At the same time, when asked where the private equity firm’s guidance is most valuable in the area of operations, 33% of respondents investing in healthcare cite overhead cost reduction. Cost optimization may be more important than ever as healthcare companies fight to stay afloat in challenging economic conditions — PE firms can help healthcare companies optimize their costs so they can continue to provide care to their communities. Cost optimization can also support the shift to value-based care, an approach to care that prioritizes achieving the best possible patient outcomes for the lowest cost, which is picking up steam as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
7. Inflation continues to concern PE firms. When asked which aspect of economic instability they are most concerned about, 44% of respondents investing in healthcare cite inflation, making it their greatest current concern. It’s unlikely we’ll see inflation slow until the labor market eases. High inflation may dampen PE’s appetite for deals, especially as the Fed plans interest rate increases later this year.