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Abano investors Hutson, Reeves seek control

Abano investors Hutson, Reeves seek control in partial takeover offer at $10/share

By Paul McBeth

Nov. 4 (BusinessDesk) - Abano Healthcare Group's dissident shareholders Peter Hutson and James Reeves are seeking control of the dental clinic and radiology operator in a partial takeover offer.

The pair wants to buy 30.99 percent of the company, or 6.65 million shares, at $10 apiece to build a controlling 50.01 percent stake in Abano, via a new entity they've set up called Healthcare Partners Holdings, they said in a statement. The offer is a 27 percent premium to yesterday's closing price of $7.90, and the shares have since climbed 9.5 percent to $8.65.

Hutson and Reeves have been lobbying for change at Abano for several years, supporting an informal takeover bid in 2013 by Archer Capital at $6.97 a share which would have seen the Australian private equity firm take the healthcare investor's dental businesses and hand the audiology units to Hutson for a nominal sum.

The offer was turned down by the Abano board as being too low. Archer was refused due diligence access because it could become a direct competitor to Abano, and Hutson left the board. The pair later tried to oust chairman Trevor Janes, calling a special meeting of shareholders, though the resolution was voted down, and unsuccessfully tried again at the company's latest annual meeting.

"We have had concerns about Abano’s performance for a number of years. 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," they said. "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 percent."

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If the bid is successful, Hutson and Reeves will seek changes to turn around the company's performance, by halting acquisitions in the medium term to reduce debt and improving the dental practices' operations. They would install three directors to the board.

Last month, Abano told shareholders it expects to lift first-half profit by up to 50 percent in 2017 due to dental acquisitions, which it sees as its major growth platform.

Hutson and Reeves poured about 4.1 million shares, or 19 percent of Abano, into the Healthcare Partners entity, which has been set up to buy and hold shares in Abano and undertake any other investments in the healthcare industry as agreed by its shareholders.


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