French care homes company Orpea Group has agreed to buy the FirstCare collection of nursing homes from businessman Mervyn Smith in a deal understood to be worth more than €100 million, propelling it into the position of the largest private player in the sector in the State.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has been notified in recent days that Orpea is acquiring FirstCare's six nursing homes, including three facilities on a campus in Glasnevin in north Dublin, two homes in Co Wicklow, and one in Co Kildare.
A spokeswoman for Paris-listed Orpea declined to give specifics on the deal, while a spokeswoman for FirstCare also declined to comment beyond the listing on the CCPC website, saying the transaction is subject to non-disclosure agreements as it is being assessed by the competition authority.
Four of the underlying properties in the nursing home group were acquired in 2017 by a French property investment company, called Promonial Reim, under a sale-and-leaseback deal. Mr Smith is known to own the remaining two buildings, Beneavin Lodge and Beneavin Manor, in the Glasnevin complex.
The six homes comprise 552 beds. It is believed that the deal with Orpea also involves pipeline nursing home developments linked to Mr Smith.
The planned purchase comes a little over a year after Orpea entered the Irish market by the TLC Nursing Home portfolio, made up of 674 beds, for €150 million. It subsequently bought the Brindley Healthcare care home group in two stages, giving it another 574 rooms.
Brindley struck a deal last month to buy Belmont Care, a nursing home in Stillorgan, south Dublin, adding a further 161 beds. All told, Orpea will have 1,961 beds after the FirstCare purchase closes, making it the largest private operator in a fast-consolidating sector that has attracted a flood of European institutional investment in recent years.
The French group will surpass Mowlam Healthcare, currently the market leader with about 1,600 beds, which was taken control of by Dublin-based investment firm Cardinal Capital Group's new private equity fund late last year.
Industry sources said CBRE Ireland advised FirstCare, while CBRE Spain acted for Orpea.
The latest major transaction comes four months after the agreed sale of Trinity Care, a nursing homes business comprised of more than 600 beds that was majority owned by businesswoman Anne Heraty and her husband Paul Carroll.
That deal, worth between €150 million and €200 million, involved Spanish care home operator DomusVi agreeing to take on the operating business and Belgian property company Cofinimmo acquiring the underlying properties.
Cofinimmo said at the time that the Republic, with about 30,000 nursing home beds, was “less equipped than most other European countries” to deal with an ageing population, providing a large investment opportunity.
Orpea said last year that it intended to “continue expanding its assets in this country where the current offering is insufficient and an additional 10,000-plus beds need to be built by 2031”.