The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has expressed initial concerns regarding the potential consequences for pet owners as a result of Medivet Group Limited’s acquisition of twelve independent veterinary businesses. The CMA suggests that this acquisition may lead to reduced quality, a narrower range of services, or higher prices for pet owners in affected areas of England and Northern Ireland.

The investigation into Medivet’s purchase of seventeen independent veterinary businesses was launched by the CMA in March of this year. Medivet is a multinational veterinary group with over 400 veterinary centers across the UK, primarily catering to small animals and offering veterinary services, including 24-hour centers.

This is the fourth CMA investigation into acquisitions within the veterinary sector over the past two years, occurring at a time when corporate groups are increasingly acquiring small, independent veterinary services throughout the UK.

Medivet made the acquisitions between September 2021 and September 2022, without proper public disclosure or notification to the CMA at the time. The CMA identified potential concerns during its ongoing monitoring of mergers and acquisitions, leading to initial investigations in March 2023.

As a result of these investigations, the CMA has identified competition concerns in relation to 12 transactions involving the provision of veterinary services for small animals in 34 local areas of England and Northern Ireland. Additionally, competition concerns were found in relation to two of the twelve transactions concerning the provision of out-of-hours veterinary services to small animals in five local areas in England.

The CMA discovered that the combined businesses resulting from these deals would represent a significant portion of veterinary services available in each respective location of concern. However, no competition concerns were raised for three of the purchases (The Hollies, Canine Healthcare, and Withy Grove), and in April, it was determined that two of the purchases (Monument Vets and Stanhope Park) did not meet the statutory requirements for further investigation.

Sorcha O’Carroll, Senior Director of Mergers at the CMA, commented on the issue, stating:

“With approximately 17 million households in the UK owning pets and spending around £4 billion annually on veterinary services and other pet-related expenses, it is essential that we ensure continued access to high-quality pet care at fair prices. We have received concerns regarding the potential consequences of independent veterinary practices being acquired by a single company, including the risk of reduced competition at the local level, leading to higher prices or diminished service quality. We will continue to monitor the impact of such transactions to take the necessary measures and safeguard the availability and quality of local veterinary services.”

Medivet has a period of 5 working days to present legally binding proposals to address the identified competition concerns to the CMA. Subsequently, the CMA will have an additional 5 working days to consider whether to accept these proposals, thus potentially avoiding the need for Phase 2 investigations.