Dr Martens Owner To Buy NHS Services Supplier
The private equity firm behind the Dr Martens footwear brand is in talks about a string of deals aimed at establishing it as a powerhouse in the world of medical diagnostics services.
Sky News understands that Permira, one of the world's largest buyout firms, is in advanced talks to buy Asteral, a supplier of imaging equipment and related services to the NHS.
Permira is also understood to be in discussions about a takeover of Mesa, a Swiss-owned peer which also has a significant presence in the UK market for maintaining advanced medical equipment.
The companies compete with the likes of GE and Siemens to provide equipment and maintenance for the provision of CT scans and other medical imaging techniques.
Together, the two deals could be valued at in the region of £200m, one analyst suggested on Tuesday.
The back-to-back takeovers, which have not yet been formally signed by Permira, represent an example of a 'buy-and-build' approach adopted by private equity firms as a way of achieving scale in a particular industry.
Such deals offer opportunities to make substantial savings by combining overlapping functions and eliminating costs, as well as through achieving broader economies of scale.
While the Asteral and Mesa acquisitions would by themselves not be of sufficient scale to attract the attention of a firm such as Permira, the firm is understood to have identified the diagnostics after-care market as potentially ripe for consolidation.
Asteral was established in 2001 to provide asset finance solutions to the NHS, although its focus has shifted since then from financing medical equipment to offering medical equipment-related services.
The company is currently owned by Brook Henderson, a privately-held group which specialises in the provision of services to public sector organisations.
Asteral, the sale of which is being overseen by KPMG, recorded a turnover of £29m in 2012-13, and has future contracts in place worth £480m, according to the company.
"A changing NHS needs medical equipment solutions with greater flexibility and control over which assets are replaced or upgraded and when," the company's website says.
"Asteral... responds to this challenge with a fully-managed service that requires no up-front commitment for future investment."
As well as Dr Martens, which it bought last year, Permira owns stakes in New Look, the high street clothing chain, and Hugo Boss, the luxury fashion house.
Permira declined to comment.