Why Drug Companies Must Be On the Stock Exchange — Dr. Fidelis Ayebae, CEO Fidson
Dr. Fidelis A. Ayebae is the Chief Executive Officer/ Managing Director of Fidson Healthcare Plc. In this interview, he talks about how this drug company that started in 1995 grew to become one of the top rated companies on the Stock Exchange, among other issues. Excerpts.
How was Fidson Healthcare Plc, a private pharmaceutical company, transformed to the most sought after healthcare stock on the Nigerian Stock Exchange?
The first thing that drives success anywhere in the world is vision. So what has driven Fidson Healthcare Plc is essentially the initial vision in 1995; to be a healthcare company that will add value to lives, knowing that Africa is less interested in people’s lives.
What is important is to give human being good health and every other thing falls in place. Good health helps you to think well, be innovative and to relate properly as a human being. I felt we must do it as best as we possibly can and that is what is driving us. That also is what took us to the stock market.
It was part of the Fidson Healthcare Plc’s vision to begin as distributors and from distributorship to owning our brand and then into manufacturing these brands. From this, we then go into owning our own molecules, etc.
However, in getting there, capital will be needed. Going to the stock market does two things; it helps to sustain the company over generations. When the public invest in a business, they are able to take care of the business.
Also, when you go to the capital market, it helps to improve standards by ensuring that global best practices are adopted in running that business in order for the company to continually be a good bride that everybody can relate with and will want to have.
So, for Fidson Healthcare Plc, the quest for capital, the quest to ensure that the business outlives me and the quest to ensure that the company is accountable drove us into the stock market.
What is the growth rate of Fidson Healthcare Plc?
It is one of the fastest growing companies in terms of pricing in the market. It is also one of the companies that give the best returns on investments. In 52 weeks for example, we moved from N1.80k to N3.59K as at first week in September.
Dividend payments from Fidson Healthcare Plc are also one of the best returns on investments across most of the categories of business listed on the floor of the Stock Exchange. Of the six pharmaceutical companies listed on the stock exchange, Fidson Healthcare Plc comes second.
In terms of return on investments, for a company that is priced between N1.80K and N3.59k that pays a dividend of about N12.00, that is between 10 and 11 per cent. The return on such an investment is far above other companies’ that are priced at over N60 and are only returning about five per cent.
So Fidson Healthcare Plc’s stock is one of the best; it is one of the most fluid in the market because it is changing hands fast because people are actually making money from it. This stems not only from the fact that we are listed but also because as a company, we have always fulfilled our promise on a daily basis. Our investors are kept updated with what we are doing.
How relevant are your products to the common man on the street?
The products that we offer are relevant to what the ordinary man on the street can relate to and what he needs to stay healthy and not only to be cured of an ailment. These products are largely produced from our factories and the rest is imported.
This is a business strategy that we had decided to take because the infrastructure needed to be efficient, profitable and competitive is largely lacking in Nigeria. When we have developed these products to a critical mass, we now begin to manufacture those products locally because the price per unit will then reduce.
Now we are setting up a biotech plant to be able to reach world standard of manufacture. This biotech plant to come on stream in the first quarter of 2015 will cost about N7.5 billion. It will start commercial manufacturing from about February next year.
Now that takes us to another level of manufacturing all together, where we will be collaborating with some of the biggest countries in the world in terms of pharmaceutical knowhow, formulation, processes and the best standards in global pharmaceutical manufacturing.
What are the products that will be manufactured in this biotech plant?
We are not doing strict biotechnology products, we are still doing standard pharmaceutical formulations, but the name biotech is futuristic and that is where we are going into eventually. We will begin by manufacturing regular pharmaceutical products in their different dosage forms as well as infusions. But in another five years, we can be talking about biotechnology and what have you.
What drugs has this pharmaceutical company pioneered?
The company is a pacesetter in the pharmaceutical industry that had excelled and pioneered quite a bit. Even in the area of locally manufactured products, Fidson Healthcare Plc was the first to locally manufacture proton pump inhibitors, which are basically drugs for ulcers and heart burns.
Then we went from there to being the first indigenous company to manufacture ARVs, which we presented to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, as far back as 2007 when he was the president of Nigeria. Since then the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Health, buys the product to maintain persons with HIV. That has been a very successful field.
Other areas that we have pioneered include antimalarials, broad spectrum antibiotics, treatment for arthritis, as well as products such as zinc and oral rehydration solution (ORS) in child care.
The company also delved into infertility area, providing products for couples having difficulty to conceive due to different reasons, including low sperm count, erectile dysfunction and toxins.
Notably also is the company’s amino acid product that was introduced about 10 years ago to boost memory, de-stress you, helps in ensuring quick recovery from an illness and helps to build your immunity.
It has been found that the reason Ebola kills anybody easily, especially in Africa, is because at the point when Ebola enters the body it has made nonsense the immune system and the immune system is not able to fight the virus any more.
The product, called Astymin has been found to be very helpful in boosting the immunity and also helps the body to be able to fight. Immunity boosting properties of Astymin, which is a blend of amino acids, have been found to be helpful in the treatment of Ebola. Amino acids are the building blocks of life, so it is safe for use by everyone.
The product should be taken as daily supplements along with meals in the morning and dinner. That way, it is insurance. Even if you come down with an infection, your chance of recovering is a lot better.
Is that the only thing you have for Ebola?
As soon as the news of Ebola came out, we contacted two companies; one is in America. We are collaborating with that company now to see how to get a vaccine. It is something that we have on our plates because our company’s slogan is “We value life.”
Ebola is a call to action, it is a call to service and we are willing to do this research with a company in America to bring that product in a few more months.
Under the umbrella of PMG-MAN, members have also been directed to find the cure for Ebola because the infection is largely an African challenge and Africans must rise up to the occasion.
Is Fidson Healthcare Plc involved in corporate social service?
Last year, we spent about N56 million on CSR nationwide. Essentially, our focus is alleviating suffering and collaborating with the medical profession in bringing succour and comfort and relief to people that are sick.
Drug donations are made to motherless babies’ homes. One of the landmarks we had was the donation of a N85 million convalescent ward to Federal medical centre, Abeokuta.
Now scholarships are being offered to people that are interested in research because if we are stating a biotech plant, we need some critical local manpower.
For instance, someone was sent abroad to be trained on biotechnology in one of the universities to the turn of N9million. It is part sponsored a security company.
Currently, the biggest award today at the National Postgraduate Medical College is the Fidson award to the best candidate becoming a consultant in the faculty of family medicine.
(As published in Nigerian Tribune Newspaper edition of Thursday, September 18. 2014).