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Mars to buy animal hospital chain

Canadian veterinary chain Associate Veterinary Clinics (AVC) is set to become an arm of pet food giant Mars.

Virginia-based Mars on Monday announced a US$9.1 billion, US$93 per share deal for all outstanding shares of VCA Inc., whose assets cover almost 800 animal hospitals with 60 diagnostic labs across North America.

Those assets include Calgary-based AVC, which today operates as the Canadian unit of VCA with over 80 veterinary hospitals and clinics, employing over 2,000 people including 350 veterinarians.

AVC today operates sites in and around Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Vancouver, Victoria, Saskatoon, Nanaimo and Lake Country, B.C., and across southern and eastern Ontario, treating companion and exotic animals.

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VCA, headquartered in Los Angeles, first took a minority stake in AVC in 2008 and bought control of the business in 2012, for a total combined investment of C$77 million.

AVC, on its website, promotes itself as an option for veterinary clinic owner-operators seeking a succession or exit strategy, “whether you are looking to stay with the hospital full time, reduce your time, or step away completely.”

Mars, whose Mars Petcare business is headquartered in Brussels and includes the Pedigree, Iams, Whiskas and Royal Canin pet food brands, is also already a player in veterinary services, with assets including the Banfield, Bluepearl and Pet Partners animal hospital chains.

Once the deal closes, which is expected to happen in the third quarter of 2017, VCA would become a “distinct and separate business unit within Mars Petcare,” parallel to Banfield and Mars’ other veterinary units, the company said.

The deal also still requires approval from VCA shareholders and the “customary regulatory approvals,” Mars said, noting it already has “committed financing” in place for the purchase.

While holding a significant share of the global pet care market, Mars is arguably better known worldwide as the owner of Mars Chocolate, which produces the M+Ms, Twix, Snickers and Mars candy brands; Mars Food, owner of the Uncle Ben’s brand; and chewing gum and hard candy maker Wrigley, whose brands include Skittles, Life Savers and Altoids.

In October, Mars announced plans to combine the Wrigley and Mars Chocolate arms into one division, Mars Wrigley Confectionery, to be phased in later this year.

The move follows Mars having “accelerated” its purchase of investment firm Berkshire Hathaway’s minority stake in Wrigley. — AGCanada.com Network

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