May 28, 2014

Maybe baby: IVF company profits up, but can they last?

The IVF industry is booming, with profits up and share prices rising. But are the private companies performing the procedure accountable to their clients or their shareholders? Can they do both? And does it matter?

Paddy Manning

Crikey business editor

At a vulnerable time, when women and couples undergoing expensive in vitro fertilisation treatment want a baby above all, fears of commercial exploitation should be the the last thing on their minds. With demand for assisted reproduction growing fast, a new swag of investors are getting into the IVF industry, raising tough questions about trade-offs between profitability and patient care. Last year's successful sharemarket float of Virtus Health Care is spurring competitors, with Monash IVF in the market right now raising almost $300 million, as The Australian Financial Review has reported here and here.

Virtus is the biggest IVF operator in the country, running IVF Australia, Melbourne IVF, Queensland Fertility Group and The Fertility Centre. Virtus raised $350 million last June, and the shares issued at $5.68 have since jumped by 43%. In February Virtus reported half-yearly revenues of $101 million, up 8%, and a 10% rise in net profit to $17 million.

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