Emerging markets around the world are rapidly developing their economies, and their spending on healthcare products and services is bound to grow as these countries become richer. But which emerging market should healthcare focused investors be paying the most attention to?
We asked our team of Motley Fool contributors to share which emerging market they think holds the best opportunity for a healthcare-focused investment. Read below to see if you agree with their findings.
George Budwell: Of the key emerging markets that have become major revenue drivers for Big Pharma lately, I think India is perhaps the most compelling region for investors to keep an eye on right now.
According to the Pharmaceutical Export Promotion Council on the India Brand Equity Foundation, the Indian pharmaceutical industry is projected to see a compound annual growth rate of around 24% over the next decade, making it one of the fastest-growing pharmaceutical industries in the world.
While a good chunk of this supercharged growth trajectory is expected to come from exports to the U.S. -- especially in the generic drug space -- India itself is slowly becoming an important pharmaceutical market.
India's second-largest drugmaker by sales, Dr. Reddy's Laboratories (NYSE:RDY) for instance, is on track to post a 19% year-over-year growth in domestic generic drug sales, in part because of its recent acquisition of a handful of drugs from Belgium's UCB. But this strong growth also reflects the start of a trend toward greater penetration by pharma companies into rural parts of India with vastly under-served medical needs.
That's why several major pharmas and biotechs alike have been partnering with Indian companies like Dr. Reddy's to distribute their products in the subcontinent. Going forward, I expect this trend to grow even stronger as the huge Indian market develops further.
Investors therefore may want to consider taking a deep look at some Indian drugmakers, especially those that are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this movement to bring life-saving medicines to the masses.
Todd Campbell: A decade ago, Brazil was spending 8% of its GDP on healthcare. Today, Brazil spends roughly 9.7% of its GDP on it.
That's pretty solid growth, especially when we consider that Brazil's GDP has grown from about $1.1 trillion to $2.35 trillion during the period.
Brazil's healthcare spending increase is tied at least in part to political schemes to modernize and boost access to care, but most of the growth is due to favorable demographics.
Between 2006 and 2014, Brazil's gross national income per person has swelled from to $11,530 from $4,710, according to the World Bank, and as a result, the percentage of Brazil's population living below the poverty line has improved to less than 9% from 17% in that time.
Because Brazilians are responsible for a big share of the cost of their drugs (public sources picked up about 46% of total healthcare spending in 2012), an uptick in income is critical to drugmakers hoping to profit in that market, but an aging population likely to demand more care also makes Brazil attractive. Since 1965, the average age of a person living in Brazil has increased from about 18 years old to an estimated 31 years old, and advances in healthcare have led to the average life expectancy increasing from 57 to 73 years.
Since Brazil is home to more than 200 million people, a significant opportunity exists for biopharma companies willing to navigate the country's challenges, including a recent economic slowdown, spotty distribution systems outside of the major cities, and a lot of generic competition. However, tackling those challenges may be worth it given that Brazil's drug spending is expected to grow by 7% to 10% annually through 2020, according to research company McKinsey & Company.
Brian Feroldi: It's hard to talk about emerging market opportunities and not immediately think of China, whose population of more than 1.35 billion people ranks it as the most populous country on the planet. China's GDP has been growing like crazy for decades; from 2010-2014, its economy expanded at a brisk 7.4% annually. This extreme growth has catapulted the economy to second place in the world, right behind the U.S.
Thanks in large part to the country's one child policy, as the country gets richer, it's getting a lot older. This means that as time goes on, the country's spending on healthcare is bound to increase, and we've already seen this trend play out. In 2004, China only spent about 4.7% of its GDP on healthcare. By 2014, that number had inched up to 5.6% off of a much bigger GDP base, and chances are good it will continue to grow in the years ahead.
Big pharma has certainly been paying attention to this trend, and many have looked to the space for growth opportunities. Eli Lilly, for example, has recently announced a drug development collaboration with Innocent Biologics, a leading biopharmaceutical company in China, in an effort to beef up its presence in the region. Many other large pharmaceutical companies have also made announcements that they will be setting up research hubs in China in an effort to establish a long-term presence in the region.
For investors looking to profit from the long-term trend of higher spending on healthcare, China seems like a great place to hunt for ideas.