Hutson returns for another bite of Abano

Partial takeover offer at $10 a share rekindles three year old battle

Rebuffed Abano Healthcare takeover bidder Peter Hutson has returned to the fray with another offer, this time a $66 million partial bid to reach a 50.01% stake.

Mr Hutson’s company Healthcare Partners Holdings has announced plans to offer $10 a share for 31% of dentistry group Abano, to add to its existing 19% holding.

Abano shares rose 9.5% on the news to $8.65, valuing the company at $185 million.

In 2013 Mr Hutson was part of a consortium proposing to take over Abano at an indicative price range of $6.97 to $7.14 a share.

The proposal was rejected by Abano’s board and was ultimately abandoned by Mr Hutson after an acrimonious battle.

Mr Hutson’s new proposal criticises Abano’s acquisition of dental practices and argues the company has been financially underperforming.

In a notice of takeover announced to the NZX, Mr Hutson says he has learned from the previous failure.

“In 2013, when Peter was a director of Abano, we approached the company to try to achieve change; but shareholders didn’t agree with the way we approached it and asked us to make an offer for the company. We have learnt from that and hence Healthcare Partners is making an offer this time of $10 per share to take its holding to 50.01%.”

The notice said if the offer is successful it aims to appoint three directors to Abano’s board and “sit down with the board and management and discuss changes that will turn Abano’s performance around.”
Mr Hutson said he would like to reduce debt by halting further dental acquisitions, improve the performance of existing dental practices in the group and “create and protect a rewarding team environment.”

The Healthcare Partners bid includes investor James Reeves, who was involved in Mr Hutson’s previous takeover scheme in 2013.

Abano chief executive Richard Keys said the company had received the takeover notice and would follow the standard takeover procedure.

“The board’s going to meet to discuss that and will respond to shareholders in due course. We’ll proceed down the normal route of appointing independent advisers as well as telling shareholders not to take any action until we’ve responded.”

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