AG invests in Anima, a Belgian group with 24 residential care centres - AG Employee Benefits
AG invests in elderly care via Anima

Published on 15/02/2023


AG invests in Anima. A game changer?

​​​​​Interview with Johan Crijns and Benoit Halbart ​

​It all started in 2022, when AG first approached Anima. What does this acquisition mean for AG as an insurer?

Benoit Halbart: "With the acquisition of Anima, AG has taken a completely new direction. We​ already owned residential care centres via AG Real Estate, but only the bricks, the buildings. Investing in operations is a totally new experience for us. 
Why Anima? Well, first of all, this investment was important in terms of diversification. Anima is a well-run company with values that appeal to us. In addition, we saw the importance of getting involved in the operational side as well. It's a way to further explore a profession that truly matters to us." 

Johan Crijns: "This acquisition is very innovative. Up until now, no insurer in Belgium has even gotten involved in running residential care centres, assisted living and rehabilitation facilities. That definitely got people talking, especially in our own market where many were very surprised. It really is a game changer."

What is the added value for Anima to have AG as its sole shareholder? 

Johan Crijns: "Anima wasn't actually up for sale. In 2021, we decided to sell three buildings and use the proceeds to finance our international expansion. AG Real Estate was the real estate party we selected for this. It was only at the end of the due diligence process that we found out that AG was interested in acquiring Anima. And so we sat down with AG to better understand the underlying intentions. Then we carefully considered the importance for Anima as a company. After all, as part of our growth strategy, we had a very successful working relationship with our previous main shareholder, Ackermans & van Haaren, for 15 years. With AG, Anima is now getting a new shareholder to support us in our next phase of growth. For Anima, AG is an interesting acquirer not only because of its deep Belgian roots and outstanding reputation, but also because it sees Anima as its platform to grow its business in the elderly care market. Since AG was not yet active in the operational side, Anima can still maintain its individuality and continue to play an important role in its future development instead of being absorbed into a larger healthcare group. For the staff members at Anima, that also put a very positive spin on the acquisition." (smiles broadly)

Do you think Anima's vision aligns with the core values that AG promotes, for example in terms of sustainability?

Benoit Halbart: "At AG, it was immediately obvious to us that quality care with a human touch is priority number one for Anima. They truly care about the wellbeing of the patient, the person. It's embedded in their DNA." 

Johan Crijns: "We have always run Anima with a long-term vision. We have never been interested in short-term gains and have consistently reinvested all resources in the further growth of our group." 

Benoit Halbart: "A long-term vision, that's also something we have in common." 

Johan Crijns: "And then you start looking at certain things differently anyway. For example, we typically recruit more employees than most of our direct competitors. This costs a little more, but we know from experience that it also brings more peace and stability to the organisation. It also helps us practice what we preach in our baseline "Your happiness means the world to us". After all, happy employees are the best ambassadors for turning our vision into action for our residents. We deliberately choose to manage our organisation this way. Our first ESG priority is the "social" aspect.
In addition, we have our real estate portfolio. The fact that we own more than 80% of our buildings makes us special in the market. We have completed many new construction projects that take environmentally-friendly factors into account. 
In terms of governance, it's obvious that as a company grows in size, proper management becomes increasingly important. Sustainability has been on the agenda at Anima for years. The bigger you get, the more important it is to consider the social impact of your operations in all decisions." 

Benoit Halbart: "The S is a very important letter for AG, in all activities, products... Because AG helps make people's lives easier by providing a safety net for everything they do. In taking over Anima, that dimension, that social dimension where caring for people is so critical, was very important to us. It’s a step forward for AG, a step closer to the people. Anima is dedicated to the ageing population. A market that AG also wishes to cater to, by offering a comfortable pension and excellent healthcare coverage." 

Have certain objectives been prioritised? How do you see the future for this collaboration and for Anima?

Benoit Halbart: "Today we're still working on all the practical aspects of the acquisition. As we've only been together for less than one year, we're still getting to know each other. It's not that easy for a group like Anima to switch from one shareholder to another, even if it's a collaboration between two Belgian groups with many similar values. It's a step we'll be taking together, in full confidence. After that, we'll see what other opportunities arise." 

Johan Crijns: "The group welcomed us with open arms, which was very nice. The biggest change for me is that I now have a completely new Board of Directors. But my employees hardly notice the difference, and that continuity matters greatly to them. What reassures people most of all is the professionalism and long-standing history of a company like AG. This was also important to our trade unions. We are currently working with a limited number of people on post-acquisition formalities and the integration of certain processes. A number of work streams are underway with AG to integrate reporting and compliance. In addition, we have our business plan that we need to execute. A next step is our future growth beyond the business plan. There is ambition on both sides to work on that, but it will also depend on the opportunities that come up and how things evolve as a whole. But one thing's clear: an insurer like AG doesn't invest in a company like Anima without a bigger game plan. The ambition is to raise the bar and take things up a notch in the future."