Oasis Healthcare, the UK's largest private dental chain, has been bought by the private equity firm behind the catering group Pret a Manger for £185m.
Bridgepoint is acquiring the chain from another buyout firm, Duke Street, which paid £77m when it pulled Oasis from the London Stock Exchange in 2007. The deal includes an unusual agreement to let Duke Street roll over a portion of the proceeds from the sale to retain a minority stake in Oasis.
The company owns 200 dental practices across England, Wales and Northern Ireland and employs more than 2,000 people, of whom 800 are dentists. It offers dental care and orthodontic procedures to private customers, but is also a major provider to the National Health Service.
Jamie Wyatt, a Bridgepoint partner, said: "Oasis' financial performance has been impressive throughout the recent economic cycle.
"It is a robust platform with a commitment to quality and innovation from which to create the only branded dental operator of scale in the UK."
The UK dental market is fragmented but estimated to be worth £7bn. There are about 34,000 dentists operating from 10,500 practices owned by individual partners, and corporate owners only represent 10% of the market.
The Oasis acquisition price is understood to be less than nine times the company's underlying earnings. Bridgepoint has paid considerably less than the £250m hoped for when the company was first put on the market but Duke Street has still more than doubled its original investment.
Oasis was founded in 1996 and taken private for about 12 times earnings.
Bridgepoint secured the deal after fending off bids from three rival private equity specialists – LDC, CapVest and Canada's Omers Private Equity.
Bridgepoint aims to invest in "strong-performing, good-quality, well-managed businesses that have the potential to grow" and its other investments include the healthcare provider Care UK and the retailers Fat Face and Hobbycraft, as well as the Pret a Manger sandwich chain.
Among its healthcare investments are Tunstall, which provides alarm systems for the elderly and runs call centres for local authorities, acquired in 2005, and Ansel, which was bought in 2008 and runs a clinic in Nottingham that "focuses on the assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of adults with a wide range of mental disorders".
Its European advisory board is chaired by the former Labour health secretary Alan Milburn and also includes the BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten, the former Marks & Spencer boss Sir Stuart Rose and Sir James Crosby, the former chief executive of HBOS.
Justin Ash, chief executive of Oasis, said: "We have a successful track record of acquisitions and new openings, and plan ongoing and rapid expansion."
Oasis will have banking facilities of £146.5m, arranged through Bank of Ireland, Barclays, GE Capital, HSBC, ING and Société Générale. In total, Bridgepoint will commit £60m in capital for investment in acquisitions and other development of the business.
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