Jacobs Holding joins £300m race for Portman dental chain

Jacobs Holding joins £300m race for Portman dental chain

Portman was set up in 2009 by Sam Waley-Cohen, the amateur jockey who stunned the horseracing world by winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup seven years ago. He owns a big stake in Portman, alongside Livingbridge, a buyout firm, which became a shareholder in 2014.

Jacobs Holding is not the only contender to buy Portman, with a host of other dental businesses and financial investors also in the frame. It is, however, seen as a particularly credible bidder because of Jacobs’ investments in Southern Dental and other companies in the sector elsewhere in Europe.

Jacobs Holding's sole economic beneficiary is the Jacobs Foundation, a charitable cause focused on child and youth development. Its other investments have included Jacobs Suchard, the food manufacturer, and Barry Callebaut, one of the world's largest cocoa producers.

If Jacobs does win the auction for Portman, Sky News reports that it is likely to merge it with its other recently acquired UK operations. Portman trades from roughly 60 practices across the UK and is understood to have grown its profits substantially since its last accounts were filed at Companies House for the year to September 2016.

The proposed sale of Portman follows Bupa's takeover of the much larger chain Oasis in an £835m deal in February last year. A string of takeovers led by private equity firms such as Nordic Capital in the European dental market have led to the creation of a cluster of large-scale operators in the sector. Another big player in the UK market is MyDentist, which is backed by the private equity group Carlyle and has about 450 practices. The price paid by Bupa for Oasis surprised analysts, who had pencilled in a much lower valuation for the business.

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