mPharma, a Ghanaian health startup, has taken a controlling stake in Uganda’s Vine Pharmacy for an undisclosed amount, marking the firm’s entry into its latest market in Africa.
mPharma disclosed to TechCrunch that it has acquired a 55 percent stake previously held by the Abraaj Group, a private equity firm that collapsed after investors, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, sounded an alarm over the administration of its $1 billion healthcare fund. Abraaj bought Vine Pharmacy in 2013 when it was the largest pharmacy chain in Uganda.
The Vine Pharmacy take-over comes two years after the health startup bought Kenya’s Haltons Pharmacy for $5 million marking mPharma’s foray into the East Africa region.
“Vine used to be the biggest pharmacy chain in Uganda. At its peak, it had about 36 stores spread across the country. But with Abraaj as its largest shareholder, the business had to resize once there wasn’t any more capital available for growth. We are buying out the stake that Abraaj held,” mPharma co-founder and CEO Gregory Rockson told TechCrunch.
Rockson said that he hopes to take Vine Pharmacy to its former glory, when it held the position of the biggest retail pharmacy chain in Uganda. Vine Pharmacy had 20 branches across Uganda when Abraaj took over and embarked on an aggressive growth plan that involved doubling its branches by 2018 – a feat it accomplished until the PE collapsed leading to the shutdown of several outlets. Abraaj also grew the pharmacy’s wholesale business, supplied government agencies and health institutions, and expanded to include personalized patient care through home visits.
“I can tell you Vine is a very profitable pharmacy chain. It’s been a family-owned business for almost 30 years, and so, we are really trying to use this moment to scale the business,” Rockson said.