Saga, the company which sells health insurance and holidays to the over-50s, put in a £102m takeover offer for the locum doctors' group Nestor Healthcare, on a day of bid excitement for the healthcare sector.
Tribal Group, a healthcare and education consultant and outsourced services provider to the public sector, also admitted a takeover approach, which sent its shares soaring by almost a quarter.
Acromas, Saga's parent company, which also owns the AA, said it wanted Nestor so it could offer home helps and doctor visits to Saga customers. The plan is "to grow a home healthcare services division within Saga and build a major national branded business", it said. "This is a fragmented market in which there is currently no trusted nationwide brand operating."
Shares in Nestor jumped by 10.5 per cent after the company disclosed the bid – and immediately said it was not high enough. The 90p-per-share price is a 46 per cent premium to the three-month average share price, but it "materially undervalued" the company. Nestor has been in and out of takeover talks with potential bidders since 2008.
The analyst Chris Glasper of Brewin Dolphin said the outcome "really depends on how much Acromas wants the asset. If they do, they'll have to pay up."
The Saga owner made its move a week after Nestor reported a strong jump in operating profits for the first half of the year.
Tribal admitted yesterday that it has been hurt by "the reduction in government spending on consultancy" but its shares reacted instead to news of a bid approach from an unnamed suitor. Market speculation in recent days suggested a private equity bidder, while large government outsourcing groups, including Capita, have also been touted.