Government body concerns over MEDIVET takeover of local veterinary business
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has outlined its preliminary concerns that the purchase of 12 independent veterinary businesses by Medivet Group Limited (Medivet) could lead to worse quality, a more limited range of services or higher prices for pet owners in affected areas across England and Northern Ireland.
Among the 12 businesses listed across the UK that were taken over by Medivet is the County Antrim based former Caddy Country Practice, which was located on Caddy Road, Randalstown.
Last August (2022) the practice announced it was to close as it had "joined the team at Grove Vets in Randalstown and Ballymena". Grove Vets itself was taken over by Medivet also in 2022.
In a social media post on 25 August 2022, a spokesperson for the Randalstown practice said:
"Caddy Country Practice has now closed it's premises at 19 Caddy Road. Joe and members of the team are delighted to be able to continue serving our clients and the animals we care for as we have joined the team at Grove Vets in Randalstown and Ballymena.
"Grove Vets is a highly regarded veterinary practice, now part of the Medivet group, which means that we can focus our energies on providing the very best level of care for our wonderful pets and farm animals, whilst being confident that the administrative and management functions are being well taken care of.
"We are grateful to our clients for your understanding, loyalty and support and are excited about our future at Grove Vets."
The CMA opened its investigation into Medivet’s purchase of seventeen independent veterinary businesses in March this year. Medivet is a large multinational veterinary group with over 400 veterinary centres across the UK that offer veterinary services primarily to small animals, including at 24-hour centres.
This is the fourth CMA investigation into acquisitions in the veterinary sector in the last two years and comes against a backdrop of an increasing number of transactions in which corporate groups purchase small, independent veterinary services across the UK.
Medivet’s purchases took place between September 2021 and September 2022. According to the CMA, "Medivet did not sufficiently publicise the purchases and chose not to notify the CMA at that time. The CMA identified potential concerns as part of its ongoing monitoring of mergers and acquisitions and opened initial investigations in March 2023".
Following these investigations, the CMA found competition concerns in relation to 12 transactions regarding the supply of veterinary services for small animals (typically household pets) in 34 local areas across England and Northern Ireland. The CMA also found competition concerns in relation to two of these twelve transactions regarding the supply of out-of-hours veterinary services to small animals in five local areas in England.
In each of these deals, the CMA found that the combined businesses would account for a significant proportion of the veterinary services offered in each location of concern. The CMA found no competition concerns arising for three purchases (The Hollies, Canine Healthcare and Withy Grove) and in April found that two purchases (Monument Vets and Stanhope Park) did not meet the statutory requirements to be investigated further.
Sorcha O’Carroll, Senior Director of Mergers, at the CMA, said:
"There are around 17 million pet-owning homes across the UK with consumers spending around £4 billion a year on vets and other services for pets. Particularly while household budgets are already stretched, it’s crucial that we ensure continued access to good quality pet care at a fair price.
"We continue to receive concerns that independent vet practices being bought out by a single company could lead to a loss of competition at a local level resulting in higher prices or lower quality services.
"We will continue to monitor the impact of these types of deals so we can take the necessary action to ensure reduced competition won’t reduce the overall availability and quality of local veterinary services".
Medivet has five working days to offer legally binding proposals to the CMA to address the competition concerns identified. The CMA would then have a further 5 working days to consider whether to accept these instead of referring the cases to Phase 2 investigations.