South Africans buy into UK private hospital group Spire Healthcare

Deal could see nurses and clinicians bought in to UK from South Africa

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The Independent Online

One of the UK’s biggest private hospital operators could bring in nursing staff and clinicians from South Africa, following a £432m deal on Monday to sell just under 30 per cent of Spire Healthcare to Mediclinic.

Spire, which runs 39 hospitals across the country, revealed that Cinven, the venture capital group, had agreed to sell its 29.9 per cent stake in the healthcare provider to Remgro, a South African-listed conglomerate which is the major shareholder in Mediclinic.

Mediclinic, which operates hospitals in South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland, will take control of Remgro’s stake, once it has raised money for the purchase through a rights issue.

The deal comes at a time when the Government is expected to turn increasingly to the private sector to provide services such as operations and diagnostic tests for the National Health Service.

The NHS spent £6.5bn in 2013-14 on services from private sector providers, out of a total budget of £113bn, and last winter the Coalition government set aside an additional £30m to buy operations from the private sector in an attempt to bring down waiting lists.

Mediclinic said that it has no plans to launch a takeover for the whole of Spire, which rules it out of making an offer for at least six months under UK takeover rules, unless a third party makes an approach.

Analysts at Investec, however, reckon that the South African group could eventually return with an offer. “This could be the first step towards complete takeover at some point in the future. In the meantime, Spire is likely to benefit from Mediclinic’s international expertise with potential for supply-chain benefits,” they said.

The deal, at 360p a share, represents a 12.5 per cent increase on Spire’s closing share price on Friday. Cinven has been selling down its stake over the past year, and will be left with less than 8 per cent.

Spire, which is the UK’s second largest private hospital operator, listed on the London Stock Exchange a year ago at 210p a share. Its shares closed up nearly 11 per cent, or 35p, at 355p.