Care homes net Alchemy £200m

Alchemy Partners, the private equity firm headed by Jon Moulton, yesterday made £200m from cashing in its stake in the nursing home chain Four Seasons.

The sale of the business to Allianz Capital Partners also saw 10 senior employees of Four Seasons, including its chief executive, Hamilton Anstead, realise a total of £30m.

Four Seasons, Alchemy's largest single investment, includes more than 300 nursing homes, with about 14,600 beds, and is seen as a prime candidate for private equity firms looking for steady revenue.

It was founded by Alchemy in 1999 when the buyout firm acquired two separate companies, CrestaCare and Four Seasons Health Care, for about £133m, which included about £44.5m in cash. Since then, Alchemy has grown the business through acquisitions, buying two more health groups - Omega Worldwide and Principal Healthcare Finance - in 2002.

The sale to Allianz Capital underlines the private equity industry's interest in European healthcare, which is thought to have strong assets and prospects for steady long-term growth due to the ageing population of developed countries.

The sale to Allianz, which was advised by Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, comes as a number of other assets in the sector are in play, including Westminster Healthcare, a nursing home operator put up for sale by 3i with a price tag of about £400m, while Bayer, the German chemicals and pharmaceuticals company, is in exclusive talks to buy the over-the-counter drugs business of Roche after outbidding private equity groups.

BC Partners, the UK buyout group, is also interested in making further acquisitions in the sector and is thought to be considering a hospital deal in Spain.

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