You have gone through a difficult period, particularly related to the alleged actions of former senior executives of the group accused of providing misleading financial information to the financial markets between the end of 2017 and July 2019. In this context, your ability to reassure your shareholders will be under particular scrutiny. What is your position that this case should be definitively closed?
William Bremond — We came to the head of Visiomed in April 2022. This practice and these facts are therefore far in the past. The AMF Sanctions Committee admitted that Visiomed was not to blame and that the information that was placed on the markets at the time, considered wrong, was primarily the responsibility of the former managers. It also recommends sanctions in this sense: of the 1.35 million euros of recommended fines, 1.25 million is aimed at former managers, and only 0.1 million euros at Visiomed. We see it as good news and a good signal. This page is turned. Management has been completely transformed with the new board, new management, new strategy and fundamentally changed shareholder base. Everyone is focused on the development of our industrial project.
Thomas Picquette — I would like to end by reminding you of a significant difference: today, Visiomed is profitable. These actions occurred at a time when the company was structurally loss-making and had a very uncertain outlook. This forced the company to finance itself mainly in capital line and these issues that are no longer ours today could have led to these excesses. Since our arrival, we have also brought management up to the highest standards, especially the implementation of new communication processes that now make these abuses impossible. Today, only managers can no longer control Visiomed’s communication. We transparently inform the markets, with clear and regular communication about profitable business, whether the news is good or bad.
You assume a proactive strategy of acquisitions and external growth. What are the factors that in your market segment will condition your investment decisions so that you can find and support the development of the best players in the sector?
Thomas Picquette – The framework for our industrial project for Visiomed is simple: profitable growth. Visiomed’s internal and external growth is therefore based on sustainable, long-term industrial projects, with good visibility of operating cash flow and profitability. We could qualify this vision as obvious, but when we look at Visiomed’s past since the 2011 IPO, the company unfortunately has a liability with an activity without structural profitability.
We went the opposite way, relying on the belief that Smart Salem is a gem. Therefore, we based our strategic project on this new activity. We have developed it by opening two new centers in Dubai and continue our geographical expansion with the upcoming opening of a new center in Saudi Arabia. Our aim is to replicate domestically our model of high-tech medical examination centers that is very successful in the United Arab Emirates, through a new company, Smart Health. Smart Salem’s profitability also allows us to look at large-scale acquisition files, which would have been impossible for Visiomed before our arrival. We are in a good circle, which has changed its dimension in less than two years. Obviously, we will continue to grow thanks to the growth of our companies, the profits we redirect to our projects and possible acquisitions.
You are capitalizing heavily on your development in the Middle East — especially in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. It’s even one of your privileged development zones, in particular over it your branch of Smart Salem, a network of digital rapid diagnostic medical centers. Why are the Gulf countries strategic development areas for Visiomed?
Guillaume Bremond — It is a region in full economic and demographic expansion. Growth rates are strong, countries have little debt. There are budget surpluses, fairly controlled inflation and strong geographic dynamics with labor immigration. For us, who are located in high-tech medical examination centers historically for administrative purposes (we recently started a testing activity Review), all the lights are green, which explains our interest in the region. Its dynamism attracts many qualified people. Therefore, there is a strong structural and regulatory need to test residents and workers across the Gulf, not just in the UAE. When you arrive in most countries in the region, you need a medical examination to obtain a visa, which is renewed every two years.
In this growing market, we have developed a unique expertise that allows us to test the maximum number of patients with optimal efficiency, while promising a fully digital approach and a very good patient experience. Today, we have three centers in Dubai that can accommodate 2,000 people a day. With volume growth of 34% in the first half of 2023, 60% in the third quarter of 2022 and more than 50% in October, we can say that the results are there.
We enjoy a top position in the market of high-tech centers for medical examinations. For visas, but tomorrow also for occupational medicine and all other so-called administrative tests. Our goal is to centralize all these administrative medical tests under one roof. Our project is aligned with the needs and wishes of the government, whose vision for Dubai 2030 is to digitize and simplify as many procedures as possible. Ultimately, we want to position ourselves in other markets of the Middle East, starting with Saudi Arabia, where the same needs exist.
Are you planning to replicate the Smart Salem model outside the Gulf region?
Guillaume Bremond – The Gulf countries are not the only ones with a high level of labor immigration. Think, for example, of the United States or Canada or many countries in Southeast Asia. This need for high-tech medical examination centers therefore exists elsewhere. Our activity has no borders, but it must be adapted to markets where regulatory and legal specificities differ.
Thomas Picquette — This model is for export, but must be adapted to each country, depending on the needs. We offer results in a digital way, technological building blocks that work well together with tomorrow’s promise of having results on hundreds of biomarkers and therefore 360° tests. Our solutions can be exported elsewhere, yes, growth drivers are absolutely not limited to the Middle East.
Innovation has been in the group’s DNA since its inception. However, until 2022, the group did not experience profitability. Over the past two years, how did you manage to reconcile the external growth strategy and the requirement for healthy financial indicators, which would probably appease your shareholders?
Thomas Picquette – The first step in changing the economic and financial paradigm took place in August 2021 with the integration of Smart Salem. We have arrived with a new development strategy for Visiomed on a profitable industrial project. We started restructuring the company’s historical businesses that were accumulating losses. There was a significant review phase by halting R&D investment in France to find commercial and operational solutions for our BewellConnect subsidiary. At Smart Salem, business has always been profitable.
Today we rely on self-financing and debt with the players who support us. The very good numbers we were able to show in the first half reflect this strategy.
Guillaume Bremond – We had to balance growth and profitability. This balance requires strong discipline in our investment choices. The imperative of profitable growth and the possibility of self-financing the expansion of the group’s activities is the basis of our project and is all the more necessary in a difficult macroeconomic context with very high key rates.
In the short and medium term, you require a strategy to diversify your activities to support your growth and better meet market needs. How will this operational strategy translate into concrete terms for Visiomed?
Thomas Picquette – This has already been reflected since the end of 2022 after all our restructuring work in France and Dubai. From April 2023, we are showing new activity figures. From December 2022, we diversified the offer in Dubai by opening new centers. The second point of diversification is geographical, and we have been devoting ourselves to this since the end of last year, especially in Saudi Arabia through the establishment of a joint venture with our Saudi partners. We also have an opportunistic acquisition strategy for companies that are close to our core business. We do not prohibit anything, as long as it is our market segment and a business that promises profitable growth.
Guillaume Bremond – We will emphasize diversification with the intention of eventually expanding our market segments with health assessment tests, DNA tests and preventive medicine. First in the Gulf market, where we are expanding our network by creating digital medical centers. Then, elsewhere in the world, wherever there are needs. We have a strong vision: prevention and the development of personalized medicine are the future of the medical sector. Visiomed will therefore do everything possible to become a major player in prevention and personalized medicine through its growing technology ecosystem. Today, we listen to medical experts and know that a proactive prevention strategy will cost society less than treatment. It’s a win-win, it’s a saving for society and an opportunity for everyone to live longer in better health.