Abano exits shareholding in National Hearing Care and indicates capital return

Leading investor and operator of healthcare businesses, Abano Healthcare Group, has exited its shareholding in National Hearing Care and is considering a possible capital return to shareholders in early 2011.

Abano has today advised of the sale of its jointly held shareholding of approximately 13 percent in National Hearing Care (NHC).

NHC is an Australasian audiology company which acquired Bay Audiology Limited from Abano in November 2009. As part of the Bay sale transaction, Abano and interests associated with Bay’s founder, Peter Hutson, acquired the shareholding in NHC, on a 50:50 basis, for an investment of NZ$30 million.

Crescent Capital has today announced the sale of 100% of NHC to Amplifon Group for a total consideration of A$460 million on a debt free basis, conditional on regulatory approvals. As part of the transaction, Abano’s joint shareholding will be sold for approximately A$58 million, before repayment of NHC’s enterprise debt, sale costs and closing adjustments. Settlement is expected in late December 2010.

Managing director of Abano, Mr Alan Clarke, commented: “Abano initially invested NZ$15 million for our shareholding in NHC and we now expect to receive in excess of NZ$26 million in cash after NHC debt repayment, sale costs and closing adjustments.”

The sale of NHC is not related to Bay International, Abano’s separate joint venture investment with interests associated with Peter Hutson. Bay International owns Abano’s ongoing Bay Audio audiology operations in Australia and Asia.

Mr Clarke continued: “Some of the proceeds from the sale of the NHC shareholding will be used to further invest into Abano’s growth sectors, being our dental networks in New Zealand and Australia, our audiology networks in Australia and Asia and our radiology sector in New Zealand.

“However, given the size of the capital return from the NHC sale, the Board is currently reviewing options to return capital to shareholders, including the previously indicated on market share buy-back. Cash proceeds are expected in late December 2010 and any further return of capital will be implemented in the new calendar year.”