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Ramsay Health Care has increased its offer for rival Spire Healthcare after shareholders in the firm complained the bid was too low.
A 240p-a-share bid tabled in May faced criticism from existing investors, claiming it materially undervalued the business.
Ramsay said it has increased the bid to 250p-a-share, valuing the business at just over £1 billion, in what it called its final offer “with no further increase to be made”.
Spire has 39 hospitals and eight clinics across the UK, while Ramsay operates in 10 countries, including 40 hospitals in England.
The private healthcare sector has taken a hit during the pandemic, depressing the share prices of many, as firms turned over services to the NHS and non-Covid treatments declined.
Spire said operating costs have also increased due to the increase in PPE usage, staff and patient testing for Covid-19 and absentees due to self-isolation.
Spire said it welcomed the new offer and “noted the views of certain shareholders about the price under the initial offer”.
Toscafund Asset Management, which owns 5.4% of Spire’s shares had written to the board complaining the bid was too low.
It pointed out that the sector is expected to stage a strong recovery once Covid restrictions ease and the pent-up demand for services resumes.
Spire chairman, Sir Ian Cheshire – formerly boss of B&Q owner Kingfisher – also faced criticism from shareholders Fidelity, which pointed out the company received and rejected a 300p-a-share bid in 2017.
In accepting the latest bid, Spire said the comparisons with 2017 were not relevant due to the ongoing investment required to maintain high standards.
The company also said the offer reflected the need to balance increases in patient numbers with using existing capacity safely, alongside considerations of rising clinical costs.
Toscafund had also called on Spire to consider selling its freeholds, but the business said cashing in on property sales could create greater risks in the future due to having less control over its sites.
A total of 75% of voting shareholders must approve the deal for it to be confirmed. And whilst some might be hoping for a bid from elsewhere, the Spire board confirmed it has not received any other approaches.