Belfast Telegraph

Residents need safe pair of Hands

By John Simpson

The Four Seasons group of residential and nursing homes is a major provider of personal care for more than 3,000 frail and/or elderly people in Northern Ireland.

The 73 locally managed care homes in Northern Ireland (and two in the Isle of Man) are part of the UK-wide Four Seasons Group which has recently faced critical financial problems and the need to refinance large funding requirements.

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), parent of the Ulster Bank, on behalf of a group of banks, has had control of the Group since an earlier refinancing in 2009. Now on behalf of the consortium banks, RBS has agreed to sell the group for a reported £800m.

Four Seasons is the largest private sector provider of residential care in Northern Ireland. With an employment of nearly 4,500 people, it is the fifth largest commercial sector employer.

Recently, organisations in the private sector offering residential care have faced more difficult trading conditions. A year ago the Southern Cross Group faced a major shake-up when financing the property debts and a fall in property values lead to disposal of some units and refinancing of others.

The Four Seasons group, before the change in ownership, had already announced plans to build new facilities in Northern Ireland and expects to add extra provision for dementia and alcohol-related disorders.

Local interest will, therefore, lie in the ability of the new owners, led by Guy Hands, to endorse the expansion plans and to avoid increases in charges that adversely affect the ability of residents.

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