UK Markets open in 6 hrs 6 mins

Bridgepoint Closes In On Oasis Dental Chain

(c) Sky News 2013

The buyout firm Bridgepoint is in pole position to take over Britain's second-largest private dentistry provider in a deal likely to value it at close to £200m.

I understand that Bridgepoint has entered exclusive talks to buy Oasis Healthcare, which operates more than 200 clinics around the UK.

A deal is still some way from being completed but people close to the talks said that Bridgepoint had edged ahead of competing bids from Capvest, LDC and Omers Private Equity in recent days.

A change of ownership would be the first for Oasis in more than five years, and comes at an important time for the industry.

Last autumn, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) announced that it would not refer the private dentistry market to the Competition Commission, ruling that such a move "would not be proportionate".

The regulator did, however, set out a number of recommendations aimed at improving market conditions for users. These included a call for "NHS commissioning bodies, the General Dental Council (GDC) and the Care Quality Commission to be proactive in enforcing existing rules which require dentists and dental practices to provide timely, clear and accurate information to patients about prices and available dental treatments".

The OFT also urged the Department of Health to redesign NHS dental contracts to remove barriers to entry.

In April 2010, Duke Street announced the provision of up to £50m of funding to accelerate Oasis's expansion. Established in 1996, Oasis has more than 1.5m patients on its books and more than 700 dentists.

Duke Street has owned Oasis since September 2007. The chain's sale is being overseen by DC Advisory Partners.

Bridgepoint declined to comment.