Insurance and dentistry boost Bupa UK profits

Revenue at Bupa’s UK business edged up 1% to £2.8bn in 2017 despite a challenging economic and political environment, the global healthcare giant announced today.

Top line growth was impacted by the sale of its home healthcare business Celesio in 2016 and the disposal of some of its care homes during the year, but was boosted by its acquisition of Oasis Dental Care in February.

Insurance represents 55% of UK sales. Based on the figures provided, LaingBuisson estimates UK insurance revenue dipped roughly 2% to £1.5bn in 2017. Bupa declined to confirm the figures but warned the increase in Insurance Premium Tax to 12% was affecting affordability for insurance customers.

However, it said the business had demonstrated ‘strong growth’ in profitability, driven by enhanced care pathways and better cost management.

Underlying pre-tax profit for the UK business – which comprises insurance, health services, dental care and care services – was up 19% to £231.1m. The increase was driven largely by the insurance business and expansion of dental care services, where Bupa is now the UK’s largest provider with over 470 practices.

Bupa said measures such as direct access referral and online booking tools were improving customer experience and claims performance in the UK insurance business.

‘The UK private health insurance market remains difficult, with strong competitor activity and pressures on customer affordability,’ said Bupa. ‘Even so, we were able to maintain our profitability, driven by favourable claims experience.’

Bupa reshaped its UK business significantly in 2017. The acquisition of Oasis Dental Care for £835m at the start of the year marked a transformation in its high street dentistry offering – a business it has been keen to expand since entering the market at the start of the decade. It said integration of the business was progressing well, with the majority of practices now rebranded as Bupa Dental Care.

In addition, it has remodelled its UK care services business following the sale of 110 care homes to HC-One. Last month, it completed the sale of a further 22 homes to Advinia Health Care. However, it remains a key player in the sector and said it plans to invest in the quality of its retained homes and its growing retirement village portfolio.

It also continued to invest in its Cromwell Hospital in Knightsbridge, where it opened the Kensington Diagnostic Centre – a heart, lung and neurology hub.

In total, Bupa, whose operations extend across Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Latin America and other international markets, reported a 5% increase in revenue at constant exchange rates to £12.2bn. With the exception of its international business, underlying profit grew across all geographies, resulting in a 10% jump in underlying pre-tax profit to £805.3m.

Despite its expansion into clinical and care services, roughly 70% of its worldwide revenues still derive from insurance.

Commenting on the results, group CEO Evelyn Bourke said: ‘I’m very pleased with these results. We focused on improving and extending our services for customers. In Australia, despite an increasingly competitive environment, our private health insurance customer numbers grew, fuelled by strong growth in international insurance sales. In the UK, we became the leading private dental provider following the acquisition of Oasis Dental Care. We significantly reshaped our UK aged care business, selling a number of homes while investing in the quality of our retained care home and village portfolio. We increased our stake in our Bupa Arabia associate business (3.3 million customers), and sold Bupa Thailand.

‘Looking ahead, we expect slower growth in health insurance in our key markets. Economic and political conditions will remain testing. Internal controls, particularly information security, continue to be high on our agenda. We’re confident that focusing on our customers’ needs, and delivering high-quality services through our great people, will help us grow in a sustainable way.’