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30% of vet practice owners plan to sell in the next 12 months

30% of veterinary practice owners plan to sell in the next 12 months, new research from the advisory firm, HLB Ireland, shows.

While job satisfaction levels across the profession are “high”, work/life balance is a “significant” challenge for practice owners and their teams, results show.

Since HLB Ireland first began surveying veterinary practices in 2019, the pace of consolidation in the sector has “accelerated”.

The firm stated that this is driven by:

  • Staff shortages;
  • Higher valuations;
  • Rising costs;
  • The age profile of practice owners.

The survey also yielded the following findings:

  • Education: “Strong” support for the proposed new veterinary college, with 82% of vets who participated in the research favouring the proposal.
  • Work/life balance: Consistent with HLB Ireland’s findings in previous years, better work-life balance is the top aspiration for both practice owners and their employees. Overall, 64% of this year’s respondents want to achieve a better work/life balance.
  • Heavy workloads: 73% of survey respondents work more than 40 hours a week, and almost one-quarter work more than 60 hours a week. Practice owners, the survey show, are putting in the longest hours in an effort to retain staff by limiting the requirement for employees to be available for on-call duty.
  • Cost of living: Higher wages and rising costs are forcing veterinary practices to put up their prices. In the last 12 months, 73% of survey respondents increased their consultation fees. The rising cost of living is also having an impact on pet owners, with just under half (48%) of survey respondents saying this is causing some pet owners to cut back on veterinary care.
  • Recruitment: 59% of survey respondents said that their practice plans to hire additional employees in the next 12 months. As well as offering competitive pay and conditions, non-pay benefits such as flexible working, mentoring and career development opportunities are being used to attract and retain employees.
  • Consolidation: More than half (51%) of respondents now work in practices with ten or more staff, up from 38% last year.
Butler’s comments

HLB Ireland’s managing partner, Mark Butler, stated that up to now, corporates and larger practices have been the main buyers of veterinary practices.

While we expect this trend to continue in 2023, difficulties raising finance and the depth of consolidation which has taken place to date will likely result in fewer deals, he outlined.

That said, just under one-third of practice owners, who participated in the research, are considering selling up in the next 12 months.

Therefore, he said there would be opportunities for buyers with sufficient resources on their balance sheet to fund acquisitions.

Before entering into negotiations with a potential buyer, practice owners should, he advises, always obtain independent advice from professionals with experience in the veterinary sector.

He stressed that it is also advisable to seek advice on how best to time and structure any proposed deal.

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