SSL shortlists bidders for disposal programme

ABN Amro Capital, 3i and Electra Partners are among a group of bidders seeking to acquire two units put up for sale by the UK healthcare group.

UK-listed healthcare group SSL International is close to completing the sale of two of its non-core businesses with a number of private equity firms reported to be on the final shortlist for the disposals.


The biggest disposal being undertaken by SSL is that of its medical division, which manufactures antiseptics and surgical gloves. The business, which is valued at between £200m and £300m, is thought to have received enquiries from a number of firms including HgCapital, Bain Capital and ABN Amro Capital.


HgCapital is understood to be interested in all or part of the medical division, according to a report in The Times newspaper. The business is also expected to attract trade buyers such as Smith & Nephew and Denmark’s Coloplast. SSL sold its incontinence care business to Coloplast for £80m two years ago.


The medical division includes such brands as Regent surgical gloves and Hibi antiseptics and has annual sales in excess of £200m. Following the sale, SSL will focus on its consumer business, which accounts for around 55 per cent of the group’s operations.


ABN Amro Capital is also thought to have expressed interest in SSL’s woundcare unit, which is valued at up to £80m.


NM Rothschild is coordinating the sale of the medical division, whilst KPMG is handling the woundcare business sale.


SSL International, which was formed by the merger of London International Group and Seton Scholl in 1999, has faced a number of difficult episodes since the 1999 merger, including accountancy scandals and allegations of trade-loading. SSL has admitted that its sales were overstated by £22m and profits before tax and exceptionals by £19m in the 1999 and 2000 financial years. The overstatement of results was discovered during the internal investigation into trade loading – the practice of offering big discounts to key customers at the end of the financial year to increase sales bookings for the year after from these customers.


However, the SSL share price has doubled during the past three months to its current level of 320 pence, boosted by better-than-expected annual results in June. The proposed disposal programme is expected to pave the way for an outright sale of SSL to European household products group Reckitt Bensicker. The Financial Times reports that the Anglo-Dutch group is the most likely bidder for the business.