Mars buys another European veterinary-practice group

Conglomerate to acquire AniCura as well as Linnaeus Group

Published: June 12, 2018
By Edie Lau

For the second time in five days, Mars Inc. announced the purchase of a veterinary practice group in Europe.

The latest is AniCura, owner of some 200 hospitals in seven countries: Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

On Thursday, Mars announced an intended purchase in the United Kingdom of the Linnaeus Group Ltd., which owns 82 veterinary clinics and five specialist referral centers in England.

The Linnaeus Group was started not quite four years ago with an investment in a single hospital by Sovereign Capital Partners, a private-equity firm. The group grew rapidly.

Similarly, AniCura was established in 2011 by Fidelio Capital and The Animal Hospital Foundation of Greater Stockholm "as the first merger of companion animal hospitals in the Nordic region," according to an Anicura news release. In seven years, it expanded to 200 sites employing more than 4,000 veterinary professionals.

"The acquisition of AniCura represents Mars Petcare's strategic entry into the European veterinary care sector," the companies stated in press releases Monday.

Mars expects AniCura to continue growing apace. "On completion of the transaction, AniCura will ... continue to pursue the expansion of its brand and high quality standards of medicine in Europe," Mars said.

Best known as a maker of candy, including M&Ms, Mars has a pet-care arm through which it markets numerous brands of pet food and other pet-related products.

Mars entered the veterinary-practice business in 1994 with an investment in Banfield Pet Hospital, the largest clinic chain in the country. Most Banfield hospitals are located in PetSmart stores.

Mars assumed full ownership of Banfield in 2015, according to a Banfield representative. Operating chiefly in the mainland U.S., Banfield also has a teaching hospital in Mexico City associated with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (known as UNAM), and four locations in Puerto Rico.

Today, Mars also owns the second-largest clinic brand in the United States, VCA Inc., which has hospitals in Canada, as well. Also in the U.S., Mars owns BluePearl, a group of emergency and specialist-referral hospitals; and Pet Partners, a practice chain with locations predominantly in the eastern half of the country.

Mars and AniCura did not disclose the price of the transaction but Reuters, quoting "a source familiar with the matter," reported that the deal is worth between €1 billion and €2 billion (US$1.18 billion to US$2.36 billion).

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