Britain's biggest private nursing home group, Four Seasons Healthcare, which is owned by financier Guy Hands's Terra Firma private equity group, has begun seeking acquisitions in the Republic of Ireland. Executives from Four Seasons, which was acquired by Terra Firma for €1bn in July, are now examining entering the Republic's nursing home market.
Initial talks have been held with at least three nursing home groups in the Republic to determine their level of interest. Four Seasons is already a large player in Northern Ireland with 67 nursing homes, 50 of which it owns directly, under Jim McCall, its regional managing director. Overall it has 445 care homes and 61 other healthcare facilities in the UK, Isle of Man and Jersey.
Four Seasons has, according to well-placed sources, looked at a number of small- to medium-sized operators in the Republic. Terra Firma declined to comment on its plans. Among the operators it is thought to have looked at is Mowlam Healthcare, which owns 18 nursing homes and has opened one retirement village with another in progress. The group is led by Shannon Airport Authority chairman Pat Shanahan and had a turnover of €30.2m in 2010, generating profits of €1.6m.
Brindley Healthcare, which was founded by Amanda Torrens and runs five residential care homes in Donegal, Mayo and Kildare, is also thought to be of interest.
The founder of Terra Firma, Mr Hands lives in the tax haven of Guernsey and is one of Britain's richest men with an estimated net worth of over €120m.
The acquisition of The Four Seasons has formed part of a remarkable turnaround in the financier's fortunes; he was badly burned when he overpaid for EMI, the music group.