Results Healthcare advises Hive on acquisition by St Ives

Deal worth £50m enables St Ives to establish a prominent position in healthcare communications

Communication of medical information to clinicians and patients is highly technical, sensitive and probably, more than any other business sector, subject to legal regulations, which generally differ country by country. Biopharma companies are increasingly using the services of specialist companies who understand the ins and outs of building a successful patient communication strategy. For this reason, small niche providers of these vital services have become increasingly attractive acquisition targets for larger players in the marketing sector.

Half the battle with the successful delivery of healthcare interventions is engaging with patients. An educated patient is much more likely to comply with the drug treatment regimens prescribed by their doctors if they understand why they are taking those medicines. This also rings true for non-medicinal patient advice. If taking more exercise or other lifestyle changes would be beneficial, if the patient has a good understanding of why this is good for them, and what the long-term outcomes of complying are likely to be, then those behavioural changes are more likely to happen and be maintained.

Half the battle with the successful delivery of healthcare interventions is engaging with patients

The recent acquisition of the Hive Group by marketing firm St Ives PLC, a deal in which Results Healthcare was Hive’s corporate finance advisor, highlights both these trends. St Ives had been looking to expand its range of marketing and communications services aimed at helping clients change consumer behaviour. Clearly, healthcare is a sector in which influencing consumer behaviour can have real benefits, both to the patient/consumer, and to the companies supplying drug products to them. This acquisition enables St Ives to establish a prominent position in healthcare communications.

Over the six years since it was set up, London-based Hive Group has grown into a business with 75 employees, focused on improving patient outcomes by identifying, understanding and creating change in healthcare communications. It has three business units: Hive, a specialist communications business that puts patients at the heart of building medical brand strategy; eBee, a digital business profiling user behaviours to create effective digital solutions; and Pollen, a scientific communications business that translates complex scientific data into accessible stories that change behaviour.

While misinformation will always be there, successful patient-centric marketing will help get informed opinion out there – and noticed

Last year alone, Hive worked with more than 60 brands and delivered more than 600 individual projects for clients around the world. These were across multiple therapeutic areas, including respiratory, immunology, oncology, diabetes, virology, vaccines and orphan medicines. With an international client base that includes six of the top 10 pharma companies, it will continue to be run by the founders as a subsidiary of St Ives.

The growth of Hive’s business chimes with the increased realisation of pharma companies that they need to improve their marketing services to patients. In recent years patients have, thanks to the internet, become more medically aware than they have ever been. Vast amounts of information about diseases and treatments is now only a click away. Unfortunately, so is a huge amount of misinformation. While this misinformation will always be there, successful patient-centric marketing will help get informed opinion out there – and noticed.

Entrepreneurial businesses like Hive often find that joining with a larger partner will help them achieve their strategic goals in terms of growth and reach. Yet entrepreneurs are rarely best placed to find the perfect partner. Specialist advisors like Results Healthcare are invaluable in setting up deals like this, and ensuring that the right companies are married together on favourable terms.

Entrepreneurs are rarely best placed to find the perfect partner

Of course, it’s not just companies at the marketing end of the product lifecycle that benefit from this type of specialist advice. Right the way through discovery, development and launch, expert companies in niche sectors have sprung up to provide specialist services in individual areas. They may be actively seeking acquisition; they may be trying to stave off an approach and remain independent. Either way, good advice is essential if the right decisions for the business are to be made, and the best price achieved.