An IVF clinic. Photo: iStock
An IVF clinic. Photo: iStock

Babies are big business in mainland China and Hong Kong, with couples unable to reproduce naturally willing to pay a lot of money to become parents – and a lot more money if they can determine the gender.

Now a Hong Kong-listed company aims to create the biggest private in-vitro fertilization (IVF) franchise in Asia.

Mason Group, which already owned 50% of one of the most famous reproductive service providers owned by Dr Clement Ho – well-known for advising and delivering babies to famous celebrities – on Thursday brought in WeDoctor, a Tencent medical arm, as a strategic shareholder in a series of acquisitions.

Mason also bought in infertility expert Dr Leong, who delivered the first IVF baby in Hong Kong and ran the IVF Centre at the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital, and Dr Doo, a co-founder of the IVF laboratory and chairman elect of the Hong Kong Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Mason paid HK$232 million (US$30 million) to Dr Leong and HK$202 million to Dr Doo, who in turn exchanged 9.2% and 12% of the enlarged entity that Mason effectively controlled with 46.7% through a special purpose vehicle.

Mason also brought in WeDoctor, a Tencent-owned platform with 2,700 hospitals, 220,000 doctors and 27 million monthly active users, which paid HK$116 million for a 19.5% stake in the special purpose vehicle.

Given that the number of newborn babies in China decreased from approximately 17.9 million in 2016 to approximately 17.2 million in 2017 based on statistics from National Bureau of Statistics of China even after the abolishment of the one child policy in the PRC in 2015, there is tremendous potential demand by medical tourists from China looking for high-quality assisted reproductive technologies to achieve pregnancy, Mason said.

Now the question is if Mason’s newly formed platform can perform its magic not only with babies, but on the stock market.

Earlier this year optometry clinic C-MER Eye Care Holdings turned the local market into a frenzy and tripled its value in four months, thanks to a unique medical concept in Hong Kong and China.