NMC Health (LON:NMC), a leading UAE-based healthcare provider, is to acquire Al Zahra Hospital Sharjah from Gulf Medical Projects (ADX:GMPC) for US$560 million (AED 2.1b). Opened in 1981, the hospital is located in the Al Ghuwair district of Sharjah and is one of the largest medical facilities in the United Arab Emirates.
NMC will fund the acquisition of Al Zahra Hospital through a combination of equity and debt, drawing on new loan facilities negotiated with JP Morgan Ltd and Standard Chartered Bank. Subject to NMC shareholder approval on 29 December, the acquisition is scheduled for completion by the end of March 2017 and is expected to be the largest deal in the region’s health care sector for ten years. NMC also recently acquired Sharjah-based Dr Sunny Healthcare chain of medical centres and pharmacies for US$ 64 million (AED 235m).
The holding company of Al Zahra Hospital, Gulf Medical Projects Company, was established in 1979 in Sharjah by a government decree under the patronage of His Highness Dr. Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah. In addition to the 137-bed Sharjah hospital, the group owns and manages Al Zahra Private Medical Centre in Dubai, and Al Zahra Hospital Dubai.
The health care sector has been a focus for economic development by the Government of Sharjah, establishing the Sharjah Healthcare City (SHCC) free zone in 2012 and taking steps to help position the emirate as a centre for medical education, research and development, and also as a destination for medical tourism. Meanwhile, the recent introduction of new health insurance regulations has helped accelerate private sector growth.
The University of Sharjah has led the way in education and research, creating Sharjah Medical Excellence Cluster in 2005, adding university colleges for medicine, dentistry and pharmacy to its existing College of Health Sciences. More recently the university has added Sharjah Institute of Medical Research (2011), University Hospital Sharjah, University Dental Hospital and an Education Leadership and Research centre of excellence. Last year, plans were announced for a centre of excellence for diabetes and endocrinology research and a centre for nanomedicine.
The government brought addition focus to the Sharjah’s commitment to put health at the top of the social, economic and political agenda by joining the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) Healthy Cities programme in 2012. Sharjah has since been able to meet 88 percent of the 80 programme criteria, becoming the first Middle Eastern country to be accredited as a WHO Healthy City.
Source: Reuters, NMC, University of Sharjah, various