Fresh offer from Bupa secures Care First

Bupa yesterday won control of Care First after it upped its offer to 170p a share, valuing the nursing home operator at pounds 273m. Keith Bradshaw, Care First's chairman, and his family will collect more than pounds 21.5m from selling shares in the business. Mr Bradshaw also stands to make almost pounds 134,000 from share options and is in line for a pounds 200,000 pay-off. He will remain with Bupa as a consultant and non-executive director for a "transitional period," to oversee the acquisition.

Baroness Brenda Dean, former print union leader and a non-executive director of Care First, is also entitled to more than pounds 31,000 after controversially negotiating a new two year contract weeks after Bupa made its first approach for the group.

Bupa yesterday amassed more than 50 per cent of Care First's shares to seal victory in an escalating bid battle with Chai Patel, Care First's former chief executive who left the group in August after a boardroom bust-up with Keith Bradshaw.

Chai Patel, backed by HSBC and Barings Capital, the venture capitalist group, approached Care First on Friday to discuss a share bid of up to 170p a share in an attempt to trump Bupa's original 150p offer. However, Care First's board are understood to have approached BUPA about the new deal and it decided to weigh in with a knock-out bid.

Mr Patel said yesterday: "I am deeply disappointed but this is great news for Care First's shareholders. Now I will re-group and take time to look at opportunities in the health care sector and elsewhere."

Paul Saper of Laing & Buisson, the specialist healthcare analysts, said: "It is ironic that Chai Patel was removed from the board and yet he was instrumental in getting a much higher price for Care First. His intervention has given more than pounds 2m extra to Keith Bradshaw."

Bupa plans to overhaul the Care First estate and introduce more medical facilities to homes to make them a viable alternative to hospitals.

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