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CNBC Transcript: Beng Teck Liang, CEO, Singapore Medical Group


Following is the transcript of a CNBC interview with Beng Teck Liang, CEO, of Singapore Medical Group. The interview was broadcast on CNBC on 28 April 2017 at 11:30AM SG/HK Time, during CNBC's "Hong Kong versus Singapore" theme week.

All references must be sourced to a "CNBC Interview".

Interviewed by Dan Murphy, Correspondent, CNBC, and Martin Soong, Anchor, CNBC.

Dan: First of all, we do know that medical tourism is on the rise here in APAC. How well positioned is Singapore to benefit from those flows?

Beng: Well I think first of all understanding that Singapore has probably one of the best medical fraternities in the region, I think we're extremely well positioned.

Dan: What's can Singapore offer that other regions can't?

Beng: Well, as I mentioned, I think we have the best team of doctors that one can get, and these doctors are trained in some of the best centers across the world, along with not to mention the best technologies here in Singapore. I think we're well poised for medical tourism.

Dan: What are some of the top procedures that medical tourists might come to Singapore for?

Beng: Well, you know I think that the trend has changed a little bit over the last few years. We started being a center for SEA markets, markets like Indonesia, but as things change right now we find that demographics is coming tend to be more complex illnesses, illnesses like cancer like severe cardiovascular disease. The demographics is changing us as I mentioned.

Dan: Dr. Beng, let's bring in my colleague Martin. He also has a question for you.

Martin Soong: Doctor, good morning and thank you for joining us today. You know Singapore's ambitions to be a center for medical tourism is all well and fine. But I think one of the issues is a lot of other cities is very nearby as well including, rather countries as well and cities, we've got Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok etc., who are trying to do the same thing. So what is Singapore's comparative advantage as a medical tourism hub or destination?

Beng: Well I often say to people that you know we have probably the top medical fraternity in the world. Our doctors are trained in some of the absolutely best centers in the world. We're always welcomed in centers like Mayo or John Hopkins. We have again the best training coupled with the fact that we have great hardware in the form of our hospitals, the technology that we implement in hospitals.

Dan: And Doctor, can I also ask you in a way these flows also work in reverse because as a business, you must recognize that people are leaving those countries because they simply can't find the quality of service in their home country and that's why they come into Singapore. As a business you see that gap in the market. What are you doing to pursue new customers in markets outside of Singapore?

Beng: Well again I think Singapore Medical Group has been different in that we are actually taking the active steps of going out into some of these countries. I've already mentioned possibly a slight decline in medical tourism from Indonesia. We are clearly implementing a strategy where we are out in Indonesia, we have one of the nicest eye centers there, together with our partner Triputra. Similarly in Vietnam, we have just made an acquisition earlier this year where we have two large clinics there and we're going to certainly pick some of the capabilities that we have from Singapore out into these markets.

Dan: So as a business how aggressive do you want to be with that roll out, are you going to be targeting other markets beyond Singapore in the two that you've mentioned?

Beng: Well the short answer is yes, but I want to stay focused. Singapore, besides Singapore obviously, and Indonesia and Vietnam are the two largest medical tourism markets that we see coming into Singapore today and as a result that's why we're there. But certainly we're seeing a broader spectrum of opportunities across Myanmar, Cambodia and so forth as well.

Dan: I also wanted to take this opportunity to get a sense on how the business is faring not only throughout the first half of this year but also towards year end. What type of activity have we seen in the first quarter and are you confident that you can continue to improve profits to more each year?

BENG: Well we're seeing a really great start to the year. I think first and foremost I'm really excited at where we are today, having clearly positioned us into the women's and children's space which I'm personally very passionate about. We've just acquired two pediatrics clinics which we believe is the right strategy because what better than to capture patients from a very young age. Now similarly we're thinking this through strategy out into markets like Vietnam, where we actually put together a very nice team of pediatricians there as well.