Expanding beyond telecom, the Canadian telco owner moves into employee wellness and assistance programs

Telus, owner of Canada’s second biggest telco, has agreed to acquire wellness company LifeWorks in a transaction valued at CAD2.9 billion (US$2.3 billion), the companies announced. Telus said the the addition of LifeWorks increases “access to high quality, proactive healthcare and mental wellness for employees” with new digital health solutions. Telus said it will buy LifeWorks for $33 per LifeWorks common share, or about $2.3 billion, along with the assumption of $600 million in net debt.

For Telus President and CEO Darren Entwistle, the LifeWorks acquisition is bigger than just about Canadian healthcare. He sees it as a global positioning move to take Telus well beyond telecommunications.

“Today’s announcement will enable us to combine the respective skills and capabilities of LifeWorks and Telus Health, creating a globally leading, end-to-end, digital-first employee preventative and mental health and wellness platform covering more than 50 million lives,” said Entwistle.

Telus Mobility is Canada’s second-largest mobile carrier behind Rogers. The company boasts 9.3 million subscribers. LifeWorks is based in Toronto, the former Morneau Shepell — the company acquired LifeWorks and rebranded in a series of mergers and acquisitions throughout the mid-aughts. 

The draw for Telus Health is LifeWorks’ employee and family assistance program (EFAP) and benefits administration capabilities, Telus said. LifeWorks operates a cloud-based platform provides enterprise employees with confidential and professional support from licensed social workers, psychologists and professionally-trained human services workers. LifeWorks touts a global network with support for more than 40 languages. 

As Telus exited its fiscal 2021 earlier this year, Entwistle talked about his company’s differentiation and focus on what he described as “high-growth, technology-oriented verticals” including its expanding role in health and wellness.

“At Telus Health, our team drove double-digit year-over-year health services revenue growth for both the quarter and the year, while achieving important milestones along the way as we continue to meaningfully scale our health operations,” said Entwistle, at the time.

“This includes our healthcare programs covering over 20 million lives, an increase of nearly 22 per cent on a year-over-year basis, along with realizing more than 550 million digital health transactions in 2021 and earning over one million new virtual healthcare members, representing a 65 per cent increase over the prior year,” he added.

Telus shows no signs of slowing down its nationwide 5G buildout. The company announced in January that its 5G network already reached 70% of Canada’s population. It said its’ committed $43 billion in infrastructure investment through 2024, and has 744 urban and rural communities to its 5G network, 129 more than initially planned for the full-year 2021. 

Telus said its 5G network currently reached 245 communities in British Columbia, 245 communities in Quebec, 151 communities in Alberta, 105 communities in Ontario, 27 communities in Atlantic Canada and 14 communities in Manitoba.

Telus switched to 5G equipment made by Ericsson and Nokia in 2020 after previously announcing plans to support its 5G buildout with equipment from Huawei, following security allegations which caused authorities in the United States to ban Huawei gear.

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