Brussels refers Blackstone bid nursing homes to UK watchdog

THE OFFICE of Fair Trading (OFT) is to investigate the pounds 563m takeover of the nursing homes business NHP by Blackstone, the private equity group, over fears it may be anti-competitive.

Due to its size, the European Commission was reviewing the deal, which would have seen NHP merge with Blackstone's Southern Cross nursing homes business. But after a request by the OFT, the Commission said yesterday it would hand the investigation back to the UK authority. "The transaction will lead to some horizontal overlaps between the parties. [They] would become the biggest service provider in some local areas," the Commission said.

The OFT believes there could be competition issues in three areas, Arbroath, Nottingham and Port Talbot, where a merged Southern Cross and NHP would have a high combined market share. "The Commission has decided to refer the case as the concentration affects competition in a distinct market within the UK," Brussels said.

Blackstone announced its acquisition of NHP, one of the largest care homes providers in the UK, in November, only two months after its takeover of Southern Cross. NHP owns about 355 care homes, but only manages about half of them, and Southern Cross is one of its largest tenants. Through a takeover of NHP, Blackstone had hoped to cut costs. The two businesses would control about 18,000 care-home beds, a market share of up to 4 per cent. But its concentration in some regions is alarming UK competition bodies.

Upwards of pounds 1bn of nursing home assets are on the market at the moment amid a frenzy of corporate activity in what is a highly fragmented, but growing, care homes market.

Blackstone missed out on the takeover of Westminster Healthcare last year, which was bought instead by Barchester, a chain owned by the Irish entrepreneurs, Dermot Desmond, John Magnier and J P McManus, in a deal worth pounds 525m. Four Seasons, the second largest UK operator behind Bupa, was sold to the German insurer, Allianz, in July last year for pounds 775m. Also believed to be preparing for a sale is Ashbourne Healthcare, and BetterCare, a 3i-owned venture.

Paul Sapel, of LCS International, a consultant to the healthcare industry, believes the OFT investigation could have significant ramifications on other takeover deals. "The OFT is rattling the cage of the sector. A lot of companies thought they could keep buying other nursing home businesses may have to revisit their plans," he said. "But there is now a clear signal to the market that the OFT may restrict deals, which may put some people off bidding or lower the value of assets."

With an ageing population and a wealthier generation of elderly people, care-home beds are increasingly in demand.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Administrator

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are a vibrant and establishe...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests