Troubled Nestor is target of £300m bid approach

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The Independent Online

Nestor Healthcare, the UK's biggest supplier of agency nurses, doctors and home helps, has attracted a bid that could value the company at more than £300m.

Nestor Healthcare, the UK's biggest supplier of agency nurses, doctors and home helps, has attracted a bid that could value the company at more than £300m.

The troubled group, which has suffered another profit warning and the resignation of its chairman in the past month, received a tentative offer from a mystery predator yesterday morning. Revealed to the Stock Exchange later in the day, the news sent Nestor shares up 50p to 330p.

Speculation centred on the possibility of a private equity buyer. Nestor's smaller rival Match is owned by the venture capital outfits Hg and Bridgepoint, although the offer is not believed to have come from them.

Analysts said trade buyers could include the recruitment group Adecco of Switzerland or a US giant such as Manpower.

NM Rothschild, Nestor's banker, believes that by releasing news of the offer early it will be able to trigger an auction for the group. Nestor's shares have already risen 50 per cent this year but are well below their level a year ago before a dire profit warning which halved the share price. The company is still struggling with the disastrous £110m acquisition of Healthcall in 2001. Nestor has suffered problems integrating the group's call centre operations and Healthcall has since lost a hugely profitable contract with the Government to assess miners for disability benefit.

The company is currently searching for a new chairman after Anthony Beevor signalled his intention to step down after two years at the helm.

Nestor's chief executive, Justin Jewitt, said yesterday the unsolicited offer valued the company at a premium to Tuesday night's market capitalisation of £245m but warned there was no certainty a bid would eventually be formalised. Analysts have target valuations of between £300m and £350m for the company.

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