Competition authority investigates further vet takeovers

The takeover of eight independent vet practices by Europe’s biggest vet business is being investigated by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) to establish if there is a risk they could substantially reduce competition.

The inquiry into IVC Evidensia’s purchase of five veterinary practices in eastern England, two in Wales and an equine clinic in Berkshire has so far resulted in enforcement notices being issued by the regulator requiring all eight practices to conduct their business separately from IVC.

The notices mean that, while the inquiry is being carried out, the businesses must retain their own distinct brand identities and make no significant changes to their organisational structures.

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The enforcement orders relate to Penrose Veterinary Group, Kevin Castle (Pet Care) Ltd, Swayne and Partners Ltd, Treforest Veterinary Clinic Ltd, Mercer and Hughes Ltd, Swaffham Veterinary Centre Ltd, Anglesey Pet Clinic Ltd and Chiltern Equine Clinic.

IVC has been instructed to appoint a monitoring trustee to ensure that these orders are complied with.  

The CMA investigation will look at whether “a relevant merger situation has been created” in relation to each practice that has led to, or is expected to lead to, a substantial lessening of competition.

The veterinary sector has seen rapid consolidation over recent years, with large corporate businesses buying independent veterinary practices to benefit from economies of scale.

See also: Competition authority investigates vet services deal

Independent veterinary practices accounted for 89% of the UK industry in 2013, but the CMA estimates that in 2021 this had fallen to 45%.

Earlier this year, the regulator investigated the acquisition by CVS of Quality Pet Care, trading as The Vet. This resulted in CVS selling The Vet.

No timescales have been set out for how long the IVC investigation will last.

An IVC spokesman said the company was “working closely with the CMA and engaging constructively with this review.”

Written representations about any competition or public interest issues related to this investigation can be sent to the principal case officer, Davide Canzano, at or by post to the CMA, The Cabot, 25 Cabot Square, London, E14 4QZ, for the attention of Davide Canzano.