Priory looks healthy for buyout bids

City A.M. Reporter
HANDFUL of buyout firms are understood to be submitting indicative bids for mental-health specialist the Priory Group, which seller Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) hopes could fetch about £1bn.

Advent International, Bain Capital, Blackstone and Cinven were all thought to be planning to submit non-binding bids by yesterday’s deadline. The Carlyle Group and KKR are also thought to have also examined the business, but it was unclear whether they intend to lodge bids.

The private equity firms, RBS and the Priory all declined to comment.

The Priory operates more than 50 hospitals, schools and care homes in Britain. It is best known for treating celebrities including “Britain’s Got Talent” star Susan Boyle, Libertines singer Pete Doherty, and comedienne Ruby Wax, who went on to write a show about depression, dubbed “Live From the Priory”.

It is being sold as RBS sheds non-core assets to slim its unwieldy balance sheet. Priory expects to generate earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of about £95m in the year to December, a source previously said.

Banks would be willing to lend about 5.5 times that amount, the source said, leaving a private equity buyer to stump up about £500m in equity.

The business is viewed as a strong performer with a good management team, meaning a new private equity buyer may have little more to add to the business and could need to target lower returns, another source said. Buyout firms usually target net returns of 20 to 25 per cent, but have been prepared recently to put in more equity and accept lower returns for businesses they perceive to be low-risk.