Bupa gets its teeth into Australia

THE British health insurer Bupa is making an aggressive expansion into Australia, paying $500 million for acquisitions.

THE British health insurer Bupa is making an aggressive expansion into Australia, paying $500 million for acquisitions.

The first is the $374 million purchase of Australia's biggest dental chain, Dental Corporation, which has about 190 clinics in Australia and New Zealand and more than $400 million in annual revenue.

Dental Corp was 64 per cent owned by India's Fortis Healthcare.

The second purchase is Innovative Care's aged care operations, which comprises 10 residential aged care homes and more than 1100 beds in Victoria, NSW and Queensland.

The purchase takes Bupa's total residential aged care portfolio to 60 homes and more than 5600 beds - a small chunk of a cottage industry that is still strongly represented by churches and charities.

Bupa and the government-owned Medibank together control more than half of Australia's private health insurance policies. Unlike Bupa, Medibank does not own or operate aged care facilities.

A spokeswoman for Medibank said the business was focused on its private health insurance and health services operations.

The general manager of Bupa Care Services Australia, Paul Gregersen, said the purchase of Innovative was the largest in the sector for several years. Innovative Care is an unlisted company owned by the Croft family of Victoria.

"It's an excellent business with relatively new accommodation, strong dementia care and great people," Mr Gregersen said.

Bupa played down reports that it was looking at The Regis Group's aged care portfolio or Lend Lease's bumper 2317-bed portfolio.

The Innovative Care purchase coincided with an announcement by the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, that aged care providers would be required to publish accommodation prices on a website and to seek government approval to charge more than $85 a day.

Charges of more than $50 a day would need to be justified, Mr Butler said. He said new residents would have 28 days after moving in to decide whether to make accommodation payments via a daily payment, a refundable deposit or a combination of the two.

Mr Gregersen said the moves were "great for consumers" and would provide a "degree of transparency".

Bupa, which previously traded under MBF in Sydney, reported a $225.1 million profit in 2011, slightly down on the previous year.

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