New Zealand health tech success story HealthLink has been bought by the cash-rich Clanwilliam Group, which is on the hunt for more Kiwi companies.

It was announced today that the Clanwilliam, which is backed by the American-based multinational Eli Global, has acquired a majority share of HealthLink, which has become Australasia's leading health systems integrator.

Clanwilliam Group owns some 200 healthcare technology and services businesses in Ireland, the United Kingdom and now Australasia and has earmarked some $250 million to invest in similar companies in New Zealand, according to chief executive Howard Beggs.

Clanwilliam acquired New Zealand pharmacy software company Toniq in August and, while he was unable to say how much the latest deal was worth, he said the group would have invested $60m in Kiwi businesses by the end of the year, with a third acquisition on the cards.


"We have become quite strong in the Irish market, in the UK market and then, although it may seem like an illogical step to go as far away as humanly possible ... there's quite an alignment and a lot of similarities between how the healthcare systems and the legal systems work with Australia and New Zealand," Beggs said.

Clanwilliam had very much a hands-off philosophy and HealthLink, just as Toniq and its 200 or so other businesses, would continue to be run as it had been prior to the acquisition, but with access to the group's technology and expertise. HealthLink's executive team and staff would remain in their roles.

"We do not invest in businesses to sell them again: we are a buy and hold investor and that makes us very, very different," Beggs said "Our intent, effectively, is to never sell the businesses, just to grow the businesses."

Despite owning so many companies, Clanwilliam's headquarters has just 14 staff.

"All of the power is with the management teams of the companies, all of the decisions and all of the strategies," Beggs said.

Clanwilliam was "clearly" interested in hearing from other New Zealand companies that fitted into its vision.

HealthLink chief executive Graham Stretch said Clanwilliam's investment was clear recognition of the company's role in integrating information flows within the modern health system.

"We have a common belief that information technology can be of great benefit to the delivery of healthcare and can best be achieved by connecting information systems, allowing healthcare providers to automate and streamline their existing processes."

The acquisition would provide HealthLink with access to new markets for technology and "truly limitless marketing and sales opportunities", he said.

HealthLink, which provides a secure platform for medical practices to communicate electronically with the rest of the health system, was founded in 1993 between Telecom subsidiary Netway Communications and Clearfield Systems, the predecessor of Orion Systems. It was subsequently bought by private investor Waterman Capital.

Its services are used to connect some 13,500 medical organisations across New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands, exchanging more than 100 million electronic messages each year through the system.