Veterinary practice with five branches in Northern Ireland bought by English concern
A veterinary practice with five branches in Mid Ulster and annual profits of £1.2m has been sold to a British chain for an undisclosed sum.
Parklands Veterinary Group has now been acquired by VetPartners based in York. It has a chain of 107 practices with more than 4,700 staff.
The local business's seven directors are to remain in post at the branches in Cookstown, Dungannon, Coalisland, Aughnacloy and Portglenone.
The practice, which employs 30 vets in both small animal and farm veterinary work, also covers the Republic.
VetPartners said all five sites would remain open.
In its most recent company report for the year ending February 2018, Parklands reported profits of £1.2m, an increase of 60%. Turnover was also up 27% to £11.7m, while net assets were £3.2m.
In a strategic report accompanying the results, the directors said the results were "good".
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But they added that the sector did face challenges: "The performance of the group is affected by general economic conditions and specific sectoral factors such as circumstances surrounding Brexit and agriculture. The availability of qualified veterinary labour has been a particular challenge in the veterinary sector."
In a statement on the sale to VetPartners, Parklands director Andrew Turkington said: "The veterinary world is changing fast and by joining VetPartners, Parklands Veterinary Group is in a much stronger position to continue to deliver high quality and competitive services and products throughout Northern and southern Ireland.
"By combining resources with other leading practices within the VetPartners group, we aim to bring consistency and excellence within the business."
And he said Parklands would grow with the support of VetPartners, adding: "We welcome other practices from Northern and Southern Ireland to join us and develop a truly staff and client-focused enterprise through providing excellence in the provision of animal health. As well as farming and small animals, Parklands also covers intensive pig and poultry production, and has a specialist breeding service."
VetPartners last year secured funding from international investment company, BC Partners, to support its growth.
VetPartners chief executive Jo Malone said: "This is our first venture into Northern Ireland and we anticipate it won't be the last.
"We now have some of the best veterinary businesses across small animal, equine, mixed and farm, and the next 12 months will see further growth in each of our species groups, both in the UK and Europe.
"After building up a strong base of small animal practices, we are committed to growing our mixed, farm and equine groups, which will bring benefits of scale, local support for our teams and access to a wide range of excellent specialist services."
Pinsent Masons LLP and David Lyttle & Co Ltd advised Parklands Veterinary Group in concluding the deal, while VetPartners was advised by Mills & Reeve LLP and Hazlewoods LLP.
Michael Hamill, senior associate at law firm Pinsent Masons' Belfast office, said: "We have seen considerable consolidation in the veterinary sector in Great Britain in recent years, and this deal evidences the potential for a similar trend in Northern Ireland.
"Over the years, the Parklands team has developed the business into one of the largest mixed veterinary practices in Ireland and I have no doubt that with VetPartners' support, the business will go from strength to strength."
VetPartners was set up in 2015.