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Thomson Medical returns to profit, announces dividend

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For this year, chief executive officer Roy Quek said at a results briefing that Thomson Medical will "remain profitable for sure". It is also readying a war chest and new plans for growth.

Singapore

DESPITE fourth-quarter losses, Thomson Medical Group bounced back into the black for 2018 and has announced a final special dividend of 0.025 Singapore cents per share.

The mainboard-listed firm continued to be bogged down by costs from its acquisition of healthcare business Sasteria in 2017, but narrowed losses from the same quarter a year ago. It recorded a net loss of S$4.5 million for the quarter ending Dec 31, 2018, down from S$37.7 million. Loss per share eased to 0.017 Singapore cent, from 0.145 Singapore cent previously.

Most of the loss was due to net finance costs, which rose to about S$5 million, up from S$1.9 million previously. This was largely due to additional bank borrowings taken as part of the acquisition and higher borrowing rates in Q4, said Thomson Medical.

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Healthcare revenue in Q4 was up 7 per cent to S$56.1 million, from S$52.3 million previously, on growth in the firm's hospital operations and specialised services divisions.

But overall for 2018, Thomson Medical saw net profits of S$2.2 million, a turnaround from losses of S$22.3 million in 2017.

Healthcare revenue grew 7 per cent to S$215.6 million year on year, from S$200.6 million, driven by the group's two hospitals, Thomson Medical Centre in Singapore and Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara in Malaysia.

Thomson Medical announced a final special dividend of 0.025 cents per share, payable on May 28 this year.

For this year, chief executive officer Roy Quek said at a results briefing that Thomson Medical will "remain profitable for sure". It is also readying a war chest and new plans for growth.

A key date is April 24, when the group's bonus and piggyback warrants - from the acquisition - will mature. If all the warrants are exercised, Thomson Medical stands to receive at least S$750 million.

The proceeds could be used to fund research into health care and medical education, to "better inform our care and clinical protocols for patients". Mr Quek said that Thomson Medical would be collaborating with a "very prominent and well-established American platform in the healthcare space", and expects to share full details within a week. The relationship will be a "game changer", he believes. The group is also in advanced talks with partners in the US, China and Indonesia, said Mr Quek.

The chief also highlighted the group's move into the digital space, in a bid to become a "modern, integrated health, medical and lifestyle platform" and outperform peers. Part of that is the group's SmartParents digital platform - newly acquired from Mediacorp - which will offer parenting advice and health information. Thomson Medical also plans to roll out e-commerce on the platform at some point in time.

Other digital initiatives in the pipeline include piloting a cyber security measure for the group's medical devices, paving the way for electronic medical records in future.

Finally, Mr Quek also revealed plans for Thomson Medical's first integrated service platform at Paragon Medical Centre. "The concept of the 'nodal centre' is to bring complementary services together in a single location to enable us to provide one-stop services to make it more convenient for our patrons," said Mr Quek.

While some of the initiatives may not translate immediately into earnings, Mr Quek believes that shareholders are still invested in the company. "We've seen, in the last week or so, significant pick-up in our shareholders exercising the warrants. I take that as a good sign that they want to support the initiatives we've already announced," he said.

Shares of Thomson Medical closed unchanged at S$0.079 on Wednesday, before results were released.