Brett Belchetz is CEO of telemedicine provider Maple Corp. JAMES HOU/HANDOUT

Loblaw Cos. Ltd.-backed telemedicine provider Maple Corp. is gearing up to join other Canadian virtual health care startups on the public markets.

Maple, co-founded in 2015 by CEO Brett Belchetz, a former emergency-room doctor, has hired TD Securities, RBC Capital Markets and CIBC World Markets to lead an expected $100-million initial public offering on the Toronto Stock Exchange by summer, according to two sources familiar with the process. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the sources because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

The Toronto company and its advisers are closely watching the imminent IPO of Montreal-based Dialogue Health Technologies Inc., which has been well-received during marketing to investors this month. Dialogue priced its $100-million offering at the top end of its $9-to-$12-a share range on Tuesday after receiving more than $1-billion worth of orders from investors. The stock is expected to start trading next week.

That follows another well-received offering by Toronto’s MindBeacon Holdings Inc., a smaller and earlier-stage company, which offers online mental-health services. MindBeacon, led by Bay Street veteran Sam Duboc, raised $65-million in a highly oversubscribed IPO in December.

Like Dialogue, Maple experienced rapid growth last year as the pandemic prompted a sharply higher adoption of health care services delivered over the internet. As of last September, Maple was handling thousands of online appointments daily, up from fewer than 300 a year earlier, while revenue was running at an annualized rate of $25-million, up more than fourfold from the same point in 2019.

The rush of telehealth offerings comes during the busiest period for Canadian tech IPOs since the dot-com boom more than 20 years ago. This week, Saskatoon’s Vendasta Technologies Inc., which sells digital tools to companies that serve small businesses, set a $14-to-$16-per-share price range on its upcoming IPO on the TSX, while online course platform Thinkific Labs Inc. of Vancouver filed its preliminary prospectus to go public on the senior Canadian exchange. One of Canada’s most established technology companies, space supplier MDA Ltd., also filed to go public on Monday. And Waterloo cybersecurity software maker Magnet Forensics Inc. initiated its IPO process in recent weeks.

Maple’s competitive advantage is a strategic relationship with its newest shareholder, which has invested heavily in health care since buying the Shoppers Drug Mart drugstore chain in 2014 and bought an estimated 20-per-cent to 25-per-cent stake in Maple, giving it a valuation of almost $300-million.

Shoppers partnered with Maple a year ago, as the pandemic spread across Canada, to make virtual consultations available through the retailer’s website. It then launched a test in British Columbia in August, offering access to Maple services on iPads in 160 stores. Shoppers president Jeff Leger told The Globe and Mail in August that he believed the pandemic spurred on “a tipping point in terms of how health care is accessed in Canada.”

More recently, Green Shield Canada Group began offering its more than one million plan members free access to Maple’s platform in November, and Saa Dene Group, a collective of Indigenous-owned companies, made Maple’s mental- and physical-health services available to underserved Indigenous communities. Last month, Unilever Canada expanded a pilot program for its employees to access doctors over Maple’s platform around the clock.

Maple previously raised $14.5-million from Royal Bank of Canada, Acton Capital of Germany and SE Health in 2019.

The company did not respond to a request for comment about its plans.

The Globe and Mail, March 24, 2021