The healthcare group Fresenius is setting higher targets for its hospital chain Helios.

For 2024, Helios is now aiming for organic sales growth in the mid-single-digit percentage range and an operating return (EBIT margin) of ten to eleven percent, as the company announced at its Capital Markets Day in London on Wednesday. Previously, sales growth in the low to mid single-digit percentage range and a margin within a range of nine to eleven percent had been targeted. In principle, Helios is now aiming for annual sales growth of four to six percent (previously: three to five percent) and a margin of ten to twelve percent (previously: nine to eleven percent). The operating result is expected to grow faster than sales.

Since taking office in the fall of 2022, Fresenius CEO Michael Sen has been driving forward the realignment of the DAX-listed company, many positions on the Management Board have been replaced and various non-core businesses have been sold. In May, he announced that the strategic portfolio restructuring was complete with the exit from the loss-making Vamed services division. Fresenius now wants to concentrate on the Kabi drugs division and Helios. "We are a simpler and stronger company today. Our sharpened focus on our operating companies is paying off," said Sen.

Fresenius sees its subsidiary Helios as the leading private healthcare provider in Europe with around 140 hospitals and more than 400 outpatient facilities under the Helios brand in Germany and Quironsalud in Spain and Colombia.

In addition to a strong start to the 2024 financial year, Helios will benefit from a stronger integration of outpatient care and a strengthening of emergency care. In Germany, Helios intends to increasingly bundle its clinics into specialized clusters of two to five hospitals each and expects this to result in greater efficiency, growth and greater specialization. Sen hopes that this will attract more patients and specialists. Digital offerings and artificial intelligence should also have a supporting effect.

Helios is focusing on organic growth and the time of major hospital takeovers is over, said Sen. The company does not need acquisitions in order to grow. "Quironsalud and Helios Germany are now of such a size and are represented everywhere geographically that it is now a matter of arranging the building blocks correctly."

A sale of the 32% stake in dialysis specialist Fresenius Medical Care - the former problem child - is not on the agenda, as Sen emphasized. Investors continue to view the holding critically, even after the change in FMC's legal form and the deconsolidation of Fresenius. As the complete separation is still pending, the Fresenius share price remains vulnerable to difficulties at FMC, as the investment company DWS recently criticized at the Fresenius Annual General Meeting. "We believe that this investment can still increase in value," Sen now said. Patient growth at FMC in the US is only just returning after the pandemic. "They need to improve and then we'll see. What we want as an investor is for FMC to be clearly better than DaVita," said Sen, referring to its US rival.

(Report by Patricia Weiß, edited by Myria Mildenberger. If you have any questions, please contact our editorial team at berlin.newsroom@thomsonreuters.com (for politics and the economy) or frankfurt.newsroom@thomsonreuters.com (for companies and markets).)