Vietnamese startup draws investment from Japan’s Sumitomo

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Japanese trading house Sumitomo Corp. will invest in a major health care intermediary in Vietnam, looking to launch new digital services in a region facing rising costs and uneven access to doctors.

Sumitomo is expected to invest tens of millions of dollars in Insmart, part of the region’s growing managed-care industry.

Private health insurance is the norm in Southeast Asian countries where publicly funded health care systems lack scale. Managed-care companies serve as intermediaries between insurers and medical institutions as well as provide services to patients. Insmart holds a 60% share of Vietnam’s managed-care market, with 1.5 million customers.

As Southeast Asia’s population grows, demand for managed-care services to help tamp down ballooning medical costs is expected to rise rapidly. The market is forecast to expand by an average of more than 20% annually in Vietnam and over 10% in Malaysia.

Managed-care businesses handle tasks for insurers such as assessing whether medical expenses are appropriate, along with processing claims and payouts.

On top of this, Insmart offers a range of services to consumers, including online prescriptions as well as referrals to health care providers and access to medical records and medication information via its app.

Sumitomo plans to further expand the app’s services to include telemedicine along with medication counseling and drug shipping.

The trading house will use the expertise gained since its 2019 investment in Malaysian insurance administrators Health Connect Holdings and PMCare, which together have about 3 million customers. Sumitomo turned both companies into wholly owned subsidiaries this past March, and added telemedicine and drug prescriptions to their apps.

Sumitomo plans to buy shares both from Insmart’s founder and a placement of new stock, and will consider eventually converting the company from an affiliate into a subsidiary.

While telemedicine has failed to catch on in Japan, partly because of privacy concerns, countries elsewhere in Asia have been quicker to adopt online doctor visits. Japanese trading house see such overseas markets as promising places to roll out new services and gain know-how.

Mitsui & Co. jumped into managed care in Malaysia this year with an investment in startup MiCare HealthTEC Holdings, one of the country’s two main players, which also operates in Thailand and the Philippines.

Mitsui — already the top shareholder in IHH Healthcare, Asia’s largest private hospital group — plans to use big data analysis to improve the profitability of its medical operations. The trading house looks to double the segment’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization from fiscal 2020 levels to 110 billion yen ($1 billion) by fiscal 2025.

Toyota Tsusho in March announced an investment in startup Cross Sync, which is developing a system that uses artificial intelligence to help monitor patients in intensive care units around the clock, looking to bring the technology to a hospital it operates in India and other countries.

This article was first published on Nikkei Asia

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.