The Powerful Egyptian Woman Behind A $700 Million IPO, And Her Advice To Other Women
Few people, even in Egypt, have heard of Hend El Sherbini. But she last year pulled off an amazing feat with the help of Abraaj Group: In May, she led her lab company, Integrated Diagnostics Holdings, to an IPO on the London Stock Exchange that put its value at $668 million.
IPOs in the Middle East are still rare — those of companies led by women, incredibly so (I don’t know of any others, though would be glad to hear of some in the comments at the end).
Small, soft-spoken and steely, El Sherbini described how she built her company from one lab founded by her mother to, according to its web site and El Sherbini, a company with 4,000 employees, 290 branches and four central labs across the Middle East.
Her advice for other women entrepreneurs: “Don’t listen to what people are saying, because they’re probably jealous. You have to have a lot of self-confidence, especially here in Egypt and the Middle East. You’re not a second-rate citizen. Trust your gut.”
In an interview in her Cairo office, we talked about how her parents influenced her career, her perfectionism (obviously a great quality in a pathologist) and clothes. She favors dresses, because they look tidier.
IDH was formed by a merger of Al Mokhtabar, Sherbini’s company, and Al Borg Laboratories, controlled by Abraaj, in 2012. Sherbini became CEO of the combined company afterwards. Abraaj, which I wrote about last year, has a business model that calls for it to work closely with emerging markets companies, often family owned businesses, for five-seven years, building their processes and governance, and then exiting. In the case of Al Borg, which it invested in in 2008, and then IDH, Abraaj focused on building out the governance structure to prepare it for a public listing. IDH also developed a doctor consultancy program for referrals from physicians while Abraaj was working with the company.
IDH had a private chain market share of 55% in 2013. It was the first Egyptian health care company to have an IPO in London. Since the IPO, the stock has since fallen 30% to $3.95, most likely reflecting troubles in the Egyptian economy, which is growing fast but relies on support from the Gulf States. Abraaj exited its stake completely in January of this year.