Mumbai: This time the surprise is on Malvinder Singh.
Two years ago, Singh and his brother Shivinder sold their controlling stake in Ranbaxy Laboratories, a leading Indian drugmaker built by their grandfather, to Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo — an unlikely move in a country where families rarely sell.
But the 37-year-old billionaire’s plans to build a global healthcare chain were disrupted last week when Malaysian government fund Khazanah unexpectedly launched an $835 million bid for control of Singapore’s Parkway Holdings.
Singh’s Fortis Healthcare bought nearly a quarter of Parkway earlier this year — a slightly larger stake than Khazanah’s. With a combined fortune estimated at $3 billion by Forbes magazine — good for 17th place on its India rich list — the Singh brothers have the means and access to capital to take on the Malaysian fund if, as many expect, they choose to do so.
Both were groomed for success, graduating from the prestigious St. Stephen’s College in Delhi and earning MBAs from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in North Carolina.
They also have the ambition, having built their financial services and healthcare businesses through a spree of deals.
Singh Brothers: Shinvder Mohan Singh (L) and Malvinder Singh . Bloomberg
“By nature, I am a risk-taker but I am not reckless,” Malvinder Singh told Business Today magazine recently.
Singh, appears, however, to have made a miscalculation when he figured he could control Parkway with just a quarter of the company’s stock, and that Khazanah was operating only as a passive financial investor. His family had controlled Ranbaxy with a holding of roughly 35%.
Singh moved from New Delhi to Singapore as chairman of Parkway, a hospital chain he planned to use as a platform for global expansion.
Now, Fortis can either make a counterbid, sell out of Parkway or stay in as a minority shareholder.
Given Singh’s ambitions for Parkway, many analysts expect Fortis to launch a rival offer, as its intention all along had been to build a controlling position, sources have said.
Groomed for Success
Wearing the beards and turbans of their Sikh faith, the Delhi-based Singh brothers are polished and have a confidence that belies their youth. Shivinder Singh, who runs Fortis’ domestic business, is 34.
Malvinder, whose interests include golf, photography, travel and art, worked at American Express Bank and Merrill Lynch and joined Ranbaxy as a management trainee in 1994.
When Parvinder Singh, who crafted Ranbaxy’s global ambitions, died in 1999, his sons were too young to take over. For many years, Ranbaxy was managed by professionals — first by Parvinder’s close aide, D.S. Brar, and later by Brian Tempest, a Briton.
“Malav” to his colleagues, Malvinder took over as Ranbaxy CEO in 2006, the same year Shivinder joined its board as a director.
That year, Ranbaxy made eight acquisitions, and Malvinder Singh has hardly let up on the dealmaking pace.
While Shivinder Singh is known as a skilled, hands-on operator of businesses, Malvinder is a strategist with a passion for finance and an expansionist bent.
Daiichi spent a total of $5.37 billion for Ranbaxy in the largest acquisition of an Indian company by an overseas buyer, a deal that proved well-timed for the Singhs.
Ranbaxy shares have not returned to a peak reached soon after the sale was announced and the company was hit by charges from the US Food and Drug Administration that it sold misbranded or adulterated drugs in that country. Ranbaxy has said a “corrective action plan” was underway.
Malvinder, who is married with three children, stepped down as chairman and CEO of Ranbaxy last year, but has remained busy.
Besides Parkway, Fortis bought 10 hospitals from India’s Wockhardt Hospitals Ltd for $187 million last year.
Religare Enterprises Ltd, the family’s financial services conglomerate, bought Hichens Harrison, London’s oldest stockbroker, in 2008.
Earlier this year, it bought a controlling stake in US private equity firm Northgate Capital as part of a $1 billion plan to build a global asset management business.
In April, Malvinder stepped down as Religare’s chairman, passing the reins to close confidant Sunil Godhwani, to focus on his healthcare business.
Controlling Parkway is key to the Singh’s strategy.
Brar, who has known the brothers since they were children, does not expect them to relinquish Parkway willingly.
“They will do everything to retain control of the company, as it is a strategic piece in their growth story,” he said.