China’s cosmetic surgery market to explode in the next few years, analysts say

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 February, 2016, 8:42am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 February, 2016, 3:33pm

China will become the world’s third largest cosmetic surgery market by 2019, with its market size estimated to double to 800 billion yuan from its current level due to people’s growing wealth, peer pressure deriving from social media platforms, and the influence of Korean pop culture, according to analysts.

“The pursuit of physical beauty has become big business in China,” Yumeng Zhang and Zhijie Zhao, analysts for HSBC, said in a recent research note.

In 2014, China’s nascent cosmetic surgery industry was valued at 400 billion yuan, with more than 7 million people, most of whom are young women, having cosmetic surgery, according to the China Association of Plastics and Aesthetics (CAPA).

The industry group estimated China’s cosmetic surgery industry to double to 800 billion by 2019, making it the third largest market in the world.

“It is not uncommon for young women to approach a plastic surgeon and ask to be transformed for things like deep double-eyelids and a V-line face. But this is no yuppie trend – more 30 and 40-somethings want to look good too,” said HSBC.

What’s driving the demand in China’s cosmetic surgery market?

Apart from growing wealth, increasing peer pressure through “powerful” social media platforms -- such as mobile messaging app WeChat and Twitter-like service provider Weibo -- are also prompting people to pursue physical beauty harder than before, analysts from HSBC noted.

“Beauty and cosmetic surgery apps, which have millions of followers, encourage people to look at their own image with an ever more critical eye,” they said.

In addition, the “tremendous popularity” of Korean pop and lifestyle culture, known as Hallyu, is also changing the face of China’s younger generation.

In 2014, around 60,000 of Chinese people chose to visit Korea for cosmetic surgery, up 45 per cent from a year earlier, statistics from CAPA showed.

The big sellers in the industry are simple procedures that require no anaesthetic and “can be done during the office lunch break”, analysts said.

One of the most popular procedures is hyaluronic acid (HA) dermal filler, a simple non-surgical injection regarded as “safe and convenient” to help enhance facial contours, reduce wrinkles, hydrate and firm the skin.

“China is a leading manufacturer of HA – which occurs naturally in the human body but diminishes as people age – and we expect HA dermal filler volume to increase more than 20 per cent annually over the next three years,” they said.

In the HA manufacturing industry, HSBC identified two domestic leaders -- Hong Kong-listed Bloomage Biotechnology and Shanghai Haohai Biological Technology -- based on a survey of 50 hospitals in China and recommended a Buy rating for both stocks.

Bloomage, a medical dermatology solution provider, may see its recurring net profit increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23 per cent from 2015 to 2017, driven by the fast-growing HA filler segment, according to HSBC’s projections.

Meantime, Haohai, a biomedical material manufacturer, could witness its recurring net profit rise at a CAGR of 28 per cent over 2015 to 2017, thanks to the HA dermal filler business, the bank forecast.

However, analysts also warned against downside risks to the companies.

For Bloomage, risks could come from increasing competition in the HA dermal filler market and gross margin pressure facing the company.

For Haohai, the company also faces a competitive market for the biodegradable medical device segment, while any possible product safety issue could damage the company’s reputation.