Veterinary consolidator sells Irish, Dutch practices for $2

CVS to focus on UK, Australia

Published: May 21, 2024

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The British corporate consolidator CVS Group has retreated from Ireland and the Netherlands, selling all of its veterinary practices in the two countries for just 2 euros (US$2.17).

The practices, which have been losing money, are being sold to a company set up by Dr. James Cahill, a veterinarian and the former head of CVS's international operations.

It's not unusual for financially unprofitable businesses to be sold for paltry sums, since some sort of exchange must take place for a contract to exist.

Announcing the deal in a market filing today, CVS didn't state how many practices are involved. According to its website, it has four practices in Ireland and 27 in the Netherlands.

The move marks a significant setback in the group's global expansion ambitions, coming six years after it entered Ireland and eight years after it entered the Netherlands.

It also comes as governments worldwide increasingly scrutinize corporate ownership levels in the profession amid above-inflation rises in the cost of veterinary care.

A bill filed in Ireland in 2021 and still under consideration would ban nonveterinarians from owning veterinary practices there.

The Dutch government, meanwhile, is considering laws that would limit takeovers of veterinary practices by large corporations and cap the price of certain veterinary treatments.

CVS also is facing pressure from regulators at home. In March, authorities in the United Kingdom raised the possibility of capping veterinary prescription fees and forcing large companies to sell practices, pending the outcome of a competition investigation.

CVS's Irish and Dutch practices posted a combined loss of 6.8 million pounds (US$8.6 million) in the 2023 financial year. In its announcement, CVS said it was selling those practices due to their "sub-scale nature" and "particular challenges" in the two countries' respective veterinary markets.

“These operations have had a negative contribution to the group's operating cash flows, and significant management focus would be required to address operational performance,” the company said.

CVS said it would prefer to invest in Australia, signaling that it's poised to buy more practices Down Under, a market the company entered last year.

“We have exciting plans to expand in Australia, and this disposal will free up working capital and management capacity to support our continued expansion,” the company's chief executive, Richard Fairman, said in its statement.

Cahill, who is based in Greystones, Ireland, had worked for CVS for six years. Besides selling the practices to his business for a nominal sum, CVS also loaned Cahill's company £600,000 (US$762,648).

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