The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has outlined preliminary concerns relating to the purchase of 12 veterinary businesses by Medivet, a large multinational veterinary group, controlled by private equity firm, CVC Capital Partners.
In the UK, Medivet mainly concentrates on small animals, with over 400 practices, a number of which are located in NI.
Its latest accounts show in the year to 30 April 2022 it acquired 86 practices for £216.1m, while recording a pre-tax loss of £87.4m, with operating profit not enough to offset interest expenses on borrowings.
The CMA investigation into Medivet is the fourth involving acquisitions in the veterinary sector in the last two years. Other multinationals including IVC, CVS and Vet Partners, who generally operate similar models based on private equity finance, have come under scrutiny for various deals, mainly involving small animal vets based in Britain. All three companies also now own various large and small animal practices across NI.
The CMA opened its investigation into Medivet in March 2023, with 17 deals being investigated, all completed between September 2021 and September 2022. It has found “competition concerns” relating to 12 transactions and given Medivet five working days to offer proposals that address the issues identified. If the proposals are not acceptable, it could then launch an in-depth phase two investigation.
“We continue to receive concerns that independent vet practices being bought out by a single company could lead to a loss of competition at a local level, resulting in higher prices or lower-quality services,” said Sorcha O’Carroll from the CMA.
Included within those 12 Medivet deals is the acquisition of Caddy Country Practice in Randalstown. It closed its premises at the Caddy Road in August 2022, re-directing clients to Grove Vets in Randalstown and Ballymena, which is also part of the Medivet Group.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Medivet said they were “incredibly disappointed” with the CMA’s decision to probe the 12 deals, which “we strongly disagree with”.
“We are now considering all of our options for these sites,” the spokesperson added.