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Mahindra Partners invests in eye-care chain Centre for Sight
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Single-speciality healthcare chain Centre for Sight has struck a deal with a new investor, marking a second major private equity investment in the eye-care sector this year.

Mahindra Partners, the private equity arm of diversified Mahindra Group, has invested Rs 206.5 crore (around $30 million) in the company, said Mahipal S Sachdev, chairman and managing director of the eye-care chain, at a press conference.

News of the development comes more than three months after VCCircle had reported in January that Mahindra Partners was looking to invest in the chain.

The eye-care chain promoters -- Sachdev and family -- have separately invested Rs 20 crore in the company, he added.

The total investment (promoters plus Mahindra Partners) was nearly equally split between cash infusion and secondary part; the latter gave full exit to earliest external investor Matrix Partners India (2010), which is a venture capital firm, Sachdev said.

The fresh capital will be used for growth via both organic means and acquisitions.

The chain, established in 1996, has 44 eye-care centres across nine regions including Delhi-NCR (National Capital Region), Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.

Sachdev added that the chain has also lined up four to five acquisitions for growth. 

Centre for Sight, owned by New Delhi Center for Sight Ltd, had been trying to provide Matrix Partners India an exit for a while. Going public was one option but the company discounted that in January 2017 despite regulatory approval in February 2016.

Deals in eye care

This deal comes after Singapore state investment firm Temasek Holdings' Rs 270 crore ($38 million) private-equity-style investment in Dr Agarwal's Eye Hospital three months ago.

These deals in the eye-care space come after a private equity lull. A 2015 tax controversy surrounding Vasan Healthcare Pvt. Ltd also dampened investors’ spirits.

A recent analysis of the eye-care space shows that the collective net sales growth of six players (five investor-backed chains and one not backed by external investor) slowed to 8.2% for the financial year ended 2017-18 from 14% and 13.3% in the previous two years.

Centre for Sight was the only company to report higher growth in net sales for the year. It reported net sales growth of 12.1% to Rs 199.5 crore for 2017-18. Operating profit grew at a slower pace than 2016-17 at 7.5% for 2017-18.

Sachdev said that the chain expects a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20% in its revenue in the coming years following the fund infusion from Mahindra Partners. 

Mahindra Partners

Founded in 2009, Mahindra Partners had made its debut healthcare investment in April 2017 by putting money in Medwell Ventures Pvt. Ltd, which owns Nightingales Home Health Services.

"Centre for Sight also fits into our larger healthcare strategy, which is focused on the delivery side, with a bias towards single speciality," said Parag Shah, managing partner at Mahindra Partners. "This new investment aligns with the demographic catered to by our first healthcare investment, Medwell Ventures, which operates a home healthcare chain under the Nightingales brand," he added.

Most of Mahindra Partners portfolio companies are Mahindra Group firms, including Mahindra Logistics and Mahindra Water Utilities. Mahindra Partners has also invested in San Francisco-based urban mobility solutions provider Scoot Networks.

Since backing Medwell in 2017, the private equity firm has struck deals with two US-based companies: Conversational artificial intelligence platform Avaamo Inc. and Internet of Things startup Cloudleaf Inc., according to VCCEdge (www.VCCEdge.com), the data research platform of Mosaic Digital.

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