Future Returns: Opportunity in Global Healthcare
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Future Returns: Opportunity in Global Healthcare

Strategists at Citi believe the sector is inexpensive and worth a look.

By Abby Schulz
Fri, May 14, 2021 11:25amGrey Clock 4 min

The shares of healthcare companies often aren’t the first to take off when the economy recharges, but strategists at Citi believe the sector is inexpensive and worth a look.

Citi Private Bank shifted a recommendation that investors overweight their stock allocation to global healthcare by 2% to 4% in late April. That means healthcare now represents half of the bank’s recommended 8% overweighting to global stocks, making it a substantial bet.

Typically healthcare “is a more defensive asset,” says David Bailin, chief investment officer and global head of investments at Citi Global Wealth. But the bank is making this bet because “healthcare looks unusually cheap.”

Shares in healthcare companies have risen only by 15% since the end of 2019, including a 5% gain for the year through mid-April—a significant lag to the double-digit gain in the S&P 500 in that time period, according to Cit Private Bank’s April 22 global strategy report. These subdued gains are despite a valuation discount of 25% to the broad S&P 500 index, Citi said.

Also, in the U.S., the sector trades at a 30% forward price-to-earnings ratio discount to the S&P 500, the bank said.

Some of the relative drag on the sector could be related to worries about potential regulation. Proposals mentioned since the Democratic primaries have included regulation of drug prices and an overhaul of the U.S. insurance system, Bailin says.

But, he adds, “talk about actual legislation so far includes increased subsidies to fund long-term care as well as enhancements to the Affordable Care Act subsidy regime—not cutbacks.” There’s also no call for healthcare reform.

“Given that we see the Biden proposal as a ceiling, not a floor, to what can actually be passed in the current Congress, we view the odds of major healthcare regulation that would constrict the growth of healthcare revenues as lower than what the market is currently pricing,” Bailin says.

The reason to tilt to healthcare is to gain exposure to global growth, exposure to stocks with high dividend yields, and exposure to what Citi views as an “unstoppable trend”—the demographic shift within many countries to older populations that have the money to spend on the healthcare they increasingly need.

Penta recently spoke with Bailin about where the opportunities in healthcare are.

Why Is Healthcare Undervalued?

Healthcare historically trades at a lower valuation to the market, but always at a correlated lower valuation. Since the market bottomed in March 2020, however, stocks have been driven to lofty levels by growth sectors, such as technology—a trend that stumbled on Monday as the Dow sank 500 points.

But during this period, over the last 15 months, healthcare stocks “did not inflate,” Bailin says. Their valuations remained “within a channel of normality,” yet relative to everything else, they’re “under-appreciated,” he says.

One interesting note about healthcare is that the sector hasn’t ever had a down year in revenues or earnings—even during the years of the financial crisis, 2008-09—since the late 1980s. “How much would you pay for that consistency? Right now, you’d pay a lot,” Bailin says.

Also, the bank’s strategists note in the April report that the sector has not been a bad place to be when markets slide. “Healthcare has historically fallen the least among market segments during corrections,” the report said.

Which Sectors to Focus On? 

In terms of specifically where to invest, Citi wrote that “the long-term case” for spending on healthcare “rests on aging demographics, rising income levels in emerging market countries, and tremendous innovation in vaccines, gene therapy, med-tech, wearables, Alzheimer’s treatments, and much more.”

One company that will benefit from current demographic shifts, for instance, is San Diego-based Dexcom, which develops, makes, and distributes monitoring systems for diabetes.

Biotechnology and biopharmaceutical companies also should benefit, given the important role these companies play in drug discoveries and treatments.

To capture global growth—and high dividend yields—Citi recommends companies such as Chicago-based biopharmaceutical AbbVie (with a 4.5% dividend yield), and companies listed on exchanges outside the U.S., where stocks are slightly less expensive, Bailin says. An example of the latter is Paris-based multinational pharmaceutical company Sanofi, which also has a high dividend yield of 3.7%.

Citi also likes companies creating healthcare delivery systems, such as telehealth—services that allow patients to interact virtually with their health-care practitioners.

“There are a whole bunch of companies that are changing the delivery modality to moving away from the hospital and away from the office,” Bailin says. “We think this will happen with many sectors.”

Also worth a look are companies involved in medical devices, robotic surgery, or “anything that creates better decisions,” he says.

Intuitive Surgical, for example, is the leader in robotic-assisted surgeries, Bailin says. It “continues to expand into new surgical indications, and the [total addressable market] is enormous.”

In the wake of the pandemic, Bailin expects some pharmaceutical companies and companies focused on physician-administered therapies and vaccines will get a boost temporarily as people return to the doctor for the first time in more than a year.

“Instances of disease are lower, but it doesn’t mean they actually are lower—they are just not reported,” Bailin says. “We have a bunch of catch-up over the next 12-to-24 months to [get] back to baseline interaction with healthcare providers.”

New Jersey-based Merck, for instance, could benefit “given that its oncology and vaccines are a significant percentage of revenue,” he says.

What About Technology? 

While the technology sector had a bad day on Tuesday as the market rotated out of growth stocks, investors may not be ready to abandon hot tech names just yet. In announcing the tactical shift higher in healthcare, Citi noted that investors who followed their recommendation would still have plenty of exposure to technology.

Investors who follow Citi’s recommended 60% allocation to global stocks as defined by the investable MSCI All Country World Index will have 12.6% of their portfolio invested in technology, according to Citi. The recommendation to increase healthcare to a 4% overweight will lead to an 11.2% exposure.

“For decades the sector has carried some modicum of political and headline risk,” Citi wrote. “But that has yet to upend an enviable record of positive revenue growth. Steady revenue growth at a deep valuation discount is the type of script we like.”

Reprinted by permission of Penta. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: May 11, 2021



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Booming demand for wellness tourism shows no slowing, with travel related to health and well-being projected to have reached $1 trillion last year and to hit $1.3 trillion by 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit based in Miami.

Curated wellness travel programs are especially sought-after, specifically holistic treatments focused on longevity. Affluent travellers not only are making time to hit the gym while gallivanting across the globe, they’re also seeking destinations that specifically cater to their wellness goals, including treatments aimed at living longer.

“I believe Covid did put a spotlight on self-care and well-being,” says Penny Kriel, corporate director of spa and wellness at Salamander Collection, a group of luxury properties in places like Washington, D.C., and Charleston, South Carolina. But Kriel says today’s spas are more holistic, encouraging folks to understand the wellness concept and incorporate it into their lifestyle more frequently.

“With the evolution of treatment products and technology, spas have been able to enhance their offerings and appeal to more travellers,” Kriel says.

While some growth is connected to the variety of treatments available, results and the digital world are also contributing to the wellness boom.

“The efficacy and benefits of these treatments continue to drive bookings and interest, especially with the support of social media, influencers, and celebrity endorsements,” Kriel says.

While genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, a diet free of processed foods, sufficient sleep, and human connection play essential roles in living well and longer, experts believe in holistic therapies to help manage stress, boost immunity, and ultimately influence length and quality of life.

Anti Ageing and Beyond

“For years, people have been coming to spas, booking treatments, and gaining advice on how to turn the clock back with anti ageing and corrective skin treatments,” Kriel says. However, today’s treatments are far more innovative.

On Marinella Beach in Porto Rotondo, on the Italian island of Sardinia, guests at the five-star Abi d’Oru Hotel & Spa can experience the resort’s one-of-a-kind “longevity treatment,” a unique antiaging facial using one of the island’s native grapes: Cannonau. The world’s first declared “Blue Zone”—one of five designated areas where people live longer than average, some into their 100s—Sardinia produces this robust red wine varietal, the most widely planted on the island.

Known as Garnacha in Spain and Grenache in France, Cannonau supposedly contains two to three times more antioxidants than other red-wine grapes. By incorporating Cannonau, Abi Spa says its unique 50-minute longevity session increases collagen production for firmer, younger-looking skin.

Maintaining a youthful appearance is just one facet of longevity treatments, which range from stress-reduction sessions like massage to nutritional support and sleep programs, Kriel says. Some retreats also offer medical services such as IV infusions and joint injections.

Keeping with the trend, Kriel is expanding Salamander Collection’s existing spa services, such as detox wraps and lymphatic drainage, to include dedicated “Wellness Rooms,” new vegan and vegetarian menu items, and well-being workshops. “Sleep, nutrition, and mindfulness will be a big focus for integration in 2024,” she says.

Data-Driven Wellness

Skyler Stillings, an exercise physiologist at Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort—an adults-only wellness centre in Lanai, Hawaii—says guests were drawn to the social aspect when the spa opened in November 2021.

“We saw a huge need for human connection,” she recalls. But over the past few years, what’s paramount has shifted. “Longevity is trending much more right now.”

Human connection is a central draw for guests at Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Billionaire co-founder of tech company Oracle Larry Ellison and physician and scientist Dr. David Angus co-founded Sensei. After the death of a mutual close friend, the duo teamed up to create longevity-based wellness retreats to nurture preventative care and a healthy lifestyle. In addition to the Lanai location, the brand established Sensei Porcupine Creek in Greater Palm Springs, California, in November 2022.

Sensei has a data-driven approach. The team performs a series of assessments to obtain a clearer picture of a guest’s health, making wellness recommendations based on the findings. While Sensei analyses that data to curate a personalised plan, Stillings says it’s up to the guests which path they choose.

Sensei’s core three-day retreat is a “Guided Wellness Experience.” For spa treatments, each guest checks into their own “Spa Hale,” a private 1,000-square-foot bungalow furnished with an infrared sauna, a steam shower, a soaking tub, and plunge pools. The latest therapies include Sarga Bodywalking—a barefoot myofascial release massage, and “Four Hands in Harmony,” a massage with two therapists working in tandem. Sensei Guides provide take-home plans so guests can continue their wellness journeys after the spa.

Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Sanctuaries for Longevity

Headquartered in Switzerland with hotels and on-site spas across the globe, Aman Resorts features an integrative approach, combining traditional remedies with modern medicine’s advanced technologies. Tucked behind the doors of the storied Crown Building in Midtown Manhattan, Banya Spa House at Aman New York—the brand’s flagship spa in the Western Hemisphere—is a 25,000-square-foot, three-floor urban oasis.

Yuki Kiyono, global head of health and wellness development at Aman, says the centre provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. Aman’s customisable “Immersion Programs” consist of a three- or five-day immersion. “The programs encompass treatments and experiences that touch every significant aspect to create a path for longevity, from meditation and mindfulness to nutrition and movement,” Kiyono explains.

Banya Spa House at Aman New York.
Robert Rieger

The spa’s “Tei-An Wellness Solution” features 90- to 150-minute sessions using massage, cryotherapy, and Vitamin IV infusions. Acupuncture is also on offer.

“With its rich history of Chinese Medicine, modern research, and the introduction of sophisticated electro-acupuncture medicine, acupuncture has been proven to assist with problems and increase performance,” Kiyono says.

Resetting the Mind and Body

Beyond longevity, “healthspan”—the number of years a person can live in good health free of chronic disease—is the cornerstone of Mountain Trek Health Reset Retreat’s program in British Columbia, Canada.

Kirk Shave, president and program director, and his team employ a holistic approach, using lifestyles in long-living Blue Zones as a point of reference.

“We improve our daily lifestyle habits, so we live vitally as long as we’re meant to live,” Shave says of the retreat. He built the program from an anthropological stance, referencing humans as farmers, hunters, and gatherers based on their eating and sleeping patterns. Food includes vegetable-centric meals sans alcohol, sugar, bread, or dairy.

Guests wake at dawn each day and have access to sunrise yoga, several hours of “flow” or slow hiking, spa treatments, forest bathing, calming crystal singing-bowl and sound therapy sessions, and classes on stress reduction—one of Mountain Trek’s primary goals. The program motivates people to spend much of their time in nature because it’s been proven to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to inflammation and disease when elevated for extended periods.

While most guests aren’t aware of how immersive Mountain Trek’s program is when they arrive, they leave the resort revitalized after the structured, one-week program. Set in the Kootenays overlooking its eponymous river, the resort and adventure promise what Shave calls a “visceral experience of transformation.”

“They’re interested in coming to be in nature,” Shave says of the guests. “They hit a wall in their life and slipped backwards, so they know they need a reset.”

Banya Spa House at Aman New York provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being.
Robert Rieger

This article first appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of Mansion Global Experience Luxury.

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