Abu Dhabi Fund And CVC In £1.5bn Spire Race
Abu Dhabi's vast sovereign wealth fund has joined forces with the largest shareholder in Formula One motor racing in the race to buy Spire Healthcare, one of Britain's biggest private hospital groups.
Sky News has learnt the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) is backing a takeover bid for Spire that is being assembled by CVC Capital Partners, the London-based private equity firm.
The pair are competing against other financial investors such as KKR and Onex, with rival hospital operators including HCA and Ramsay, an Australian company, also monitoring the situation.
Spire, which employs nearly 8,000 people, has been owned by Cinven, another buyout firm, since it was formed from the purchase of Bupa's hospitals business in 2007.
Sources close to the process said ADIA's interest in investing in Spire had been sparked by the arrival at the Abu Dhabi fund in February of Pascal Heberling, a former Cinven partner.
ADIA is estimated to manage assets of more than $625bn (£373bn), derived principally from the Gulf state's enormous oil wealth.
It is playing a supporting role in CVC's bid, rather than leading it, according to City sources.
The auction of Spire, which operates 37 hospitals across the UK and is expected to be worth in the region of £1.5bn, comes as competition authorities complete a probe into the private healthcare market.
Earlier this month, the Competition and Markets Authority diluted a recommendation that would have forced Spire's larger rival, BMI Healthcare, to sell seven facilities.
HCA, however, is faced with a battle to prevent the enforced disposal of one or more of the London Bridge, Princess Grace and Wellington hospitals.
ADIA and CVC, who are being advised by investment bankers at UBS, declined to comment.
The Spire auction is being overseen by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley.