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Scoop: Webster eyes potential sale of retina platform

Sep 21, 2022
Illustration of an eye chart with dollar signs instead of letters.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Webster Equity Partners is gearing up for a potential 2023 sale of Retina Consultants of America, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: RCA is unique in its dedication to retina doctors exclusively — quickly becoming the country's largest such specialty physician practice management group.

Details: Fireside chats were held over the summer, though a process for the Southlake, Texas-based company won't start until at least Q1 of next year, sources say.

  • Goldman Sachs has been mandated as lead adviser, alongside Rothschild, sources say.
  • RCA, with 190-plus physicians in 18 states, produced $300 million-plus of 2021 TTM EBITDA, sources say.
  • The process is expected to target PE initially, though RCA has also garnered strategic interest.

Yes, but: Sources caution that Webster is less than three years into its investment, and may opt to hold RCA. 

  • Plus, the choppy financing markets present a challenge for deals seeking a price tag starting with a "B."

Flashback: Webster simultaneously acquired and combined four specialty practices in early 2020 to form RCA.

  • The firm injected $100 million into the newly formed platform alongside a $250 million LP co-investment, a source said at the time.
  • A subsequent 2020 acquisition brought the company's combined EBITDA to north of $80 million quickly out of the gate.

💭 Our thought bubble: Five simultaneous acquisitions is... a lot. Even if you're establishing a new platform. Maybe a record in PPM land?

Context: Led by CEO Robert Grabow, RCA partners with specialists delivering care to patients with macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other retina diseases in coordination with referring ophthalmologic and optometric practices. 

  • Its affiliated practices participate in more than 80 active trials with an additional developing pipeline of 70-plus, RCA says.

State of play: The retina side of vision care is in the early stages of consolidation, which suggests RCA has the first-mover advantage and could be a test case for success in the specialty.

  • One investor notes that the level of revenue derived from drugs injected into the retina could be factored into diligence.
  • Private equity firms have invested meaningfully in ophthalmologist groups that hire retina doctors.

Of note: In general ophthalmology, Olympus Partners earlier this month agreed to acquire EyeSouth Partners from Shore Capital Partners in a deal valued just shy of $1 billion, Axios reported.

The bottom line: We could see the return of multibillion-dollar PPM deals next year — especially if the financing markets become more favorable.

Webster declined to comment. GS and Rothschild did not return requests for comment.

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