Will Portland Vets be sold to a large corporate vet group in the future?
There has been a large amount of press and social media coverage recently about the ‘corporatisation’ of the veterinary industry, which stems from a change in the law in 1998. Until then, all businesses were partnerships, with only practising vets allowed to be partners. Following the reform, limited companies were permitted and practices could be owned by people who are not vets. It took several years for momentum to build, but in the past fifteen years the majority of the veterinary surgeries in the UK have been bought by a small number of increasingly large companies.
The team at Portland Vets read discussions about the impact of corporatisation with interest, and it is apparent that many pet owners are somewhat in the dark on this topic. The aim of this webpage is to provide clarity and avoid speculation about practice ownership locally.
Firstly, we would like to explain our own practice development. The three existing Portland Vets’ surgeries were built and opened by the practice founders, George and Jenny Christopherson, who both continue to be actively involved with progressing the quality of our service and the range of surgical and medical veterinary skills that we offer. George is also working on opening a fourth surgery in the near future, as well as expanding the current facilities to accommodate the growing number of registered clients and patients. We now have fifteen full and part time vets working across the three surgeries, with two additional new graduate vets due to join the team in autumn 2021.
George and Jenny have chosen not to sell Portland Vets to a corporate veterinary group and their intention, when nearing retirement, is to follow the example of Pennards Vets in Sevenoaks and transfer the business to an Employee Ownership Trust. This means that the practice will be owned by all of the employees and remain independent. For more information, please see https://www.vettimes.co.uk/news/employee-ownership-keeps-vet-practice-in-independent-hands/
Secondly, we wish to provide a little information about the main corporate groups and how they fit in to the provision of veterinary services in the local area. We believe the facts below to be correct but will, of course, change any statement that is inaccurate or becomes outdated.
CVS Group https://www.cvsukltd.co.uk
They own around 450 veterinary surgeries in the UK and are quoted on the AIM market, so anyone can buy shares in them. Their nearest four surgeries are in Caterham, Merstham, Hurst Green and Smallfield. https://villagevetcentres.co.uk/our-practices/caterham/
Independent VetCare https://ivcevidensia.co.uk
They have over 1000 veterinary surgeries in the UK, all bought within the past twelve years. Their website states that they are majority owned by a large private equity group. There has been some recent news about their potential £10bn floatation on the London Stock market https://news.sky.com/story/petcare-boom-fires-10bn-giant-ivc-evidensia-toward-rapid-london-float-12199212
In this area, they own Blackberry Vets, East Grinstead Vets, Wellhouse Vets, Maltman Cosham and Cliffe Vets.
They are mostly owned by the private equity group Inflexion Partners https://www.inflexion.com/portfolio/medivet/?pagenum=1 and have 320-350 veterinary surgeries.
Medivet has been the most acquisitive corporate in this area and has bought Seers Croft, David Clare, Thornbury, Forest Lodge, Lingfield Lodge and Harvest Vets, to name just a few. They own practices in Oxted, Newdigate, Horley, Crawley (four), Faygate, Horsham (two), Forest Row and Lingfield. They also intend to be sold this year for over £1bn. https://news.sky.com/story/medivet-to-cash-in-on-pandemic-pets-boom-with-1bn-sale-12282470
They have over 300 veterinary surgeries in the UK and have been owned by the private equity group BC Partners since 2018, when the company was bought for £720m https://www.bcpartners.com/private-equity-strategy/portfolio/vetpartners
The small animal surgeries that they own in this area are in Westerham (Mark Nelson), Sevenoaks (Elands) and Warnham (Anderson Abercrombie). They also have West Point Farm Vets, Liphook Equine Hospital and Mays and Scrine Equine Vets in their portfolio.
This was a large group of UK veterinary practices acquired by a private equity business over some years, which was then sold on to the Mars Corporation (makers of snacks and pet food e.g. Whiskas, Royal Canin, James Wellbeloved). In the UK they have over 180 veterinary practices, including North Downs Specialist Referrals and Cinque Port Vets.
Pets at Home / Vets 4 Pets / Companion Care
They have around 450 vet surgeries in the UK, having closed around forty in the past few years. This is a joint venture model (unlike the corporations above) and has struggled in recent years, leading to some veterinary practice closures and a £40m write down of the veterinary businesses. In the last results published, they reported approximately forty of their vet surgeries were still trading at a loss. Each surgery is a separate limited company, but Pets at Home have control of each company.
The six corporations mentioned above now own around 3000 of the 5400 veterinary practices in the UK, with around 300 veterinary surgeries still being bought every year. From reading the Sky News links above, within the next two years there may only be four corporations.
The remaining independent vets in our area (at the time of writing) are listed below
- Gaytons (Redhill and Horley)
- Priory Vets (Reigate, Banstead and Redhill)
- Portland Vets (East Grinstead, Edenbridge and Horley)
- Lingfield Equine Vets (Felbridge)
- Green Counties Vets (Felbridge)
- Oathall Vets Haywards Heath)
- The Mews (Haywards Heath)
- Priory Farm Equine Vets (Forest Row)
- Fairfield House Vets (Uckfield)
- Forest View Vets (Maresfield)
- Henley House Vets (Uckfield)
- Culverden Vets (Tunbridge Wells)
- Rusthall Vets (Langton Green)
- Skylark Vets (Edenbridge