Dental practice owners are increasingly positive in their outlook, according to new report
Year ahead is set to be a period of balanced growth and stability
Specialist business property adviser, Christie & Co, has today launched its Business Outlook 2024 report which reflects on the themes, activity and challenges of 2023 and forecasts what 2024 might bring across the industries in which Christie & Co operates in, including in the dental sector.
The dental industry, like many sectors, has faced its share of challenges due to cost inflation and rising interest rates. Before the mini-budget announcement in September 2022, the industry was already adapting to less predictable market conditions. Despite these hurdles, including ongoing workforce issues particularly within NHS dentistry, Christie & Co maintains a positive long-term outlook for the dental market.
In a landscape reshaped by economic shifts, the dental sector emerges resilient and ready for transformation
In 2022, the dental sector experienced robust transaction activity, largely fuelled by corporate buyers committed to acquisitions. However, the swift escalation in interest rates, soaring operational costs, and staffing difficulties led many corporate entities to halt their acquisition strategies in early 2023. This shift resulted in a notable decrease in transaction volumes as companies shifted their focus towards organic growth over acquisitions. During this period of change, Christie & Co reported a 9.8 per cent decrease in transaction completions.
In contrast, the independent dental market saw a resurgence in the latter half of 2023. With reduced competition from corporate buyers, there was a significant uptick in transactions involving first-time buyers, current owners, or smaller independent groups, accounting for 69 per cent of deals.
This revival was partly driven by Christie & Co introducing 45 practices to the market on behalf of BUPA earlier in the year, leading to a 150 per cent increase in agreed transactions. This surge in the independent sector also led to practices achieving, on average, 113 per cent of their asking price in 2023. Furthermore, the number of offers received increased on the prior year by over 80 per cent, with an average of 4.4 offers per sale, nearly double that of 2022.
The latter half of 2023 also saw an improved influx of new practices entering the market. Looking forward, Christie & Co is optimistic about a return to more stable trading conditions in 2024 as this trend continues.
As part of its annual sentiment survey, the company surveyed dental professionals across the country to gather their views on the year ahead. Encouragingly, 68 per cent of people said that they are positive about the year ahead – a 20 per cent rise on survey figures reported in the previous year – while just 9 per cent feel negative. When asked about their sale and acquisition plans in 2024, 64 per cent said they are planning to either buy or sell this year.
Reverberations since the mini-budget in September 2022, including the ongoing workforce challenges collectively instigated a strategic reassessment amongst buyers in the dental sector, particularly the dental corporates. Consequently, many chose to moderate or temporarily suspend their acquisition plans, a sharp contrast to their aggressive growth in 2022. As a result, Christie & Co saw a 6.4 per cent decrease in pricing in 2023, with the market subsequently undergoing a constructive and healthy recalibration. Christie & Co confirms that stability has been restored in pricing, signalling a new phase of equilibrium and resilience.
Christie & Co identifies the key themes influencing the sector, including economic pressures, workforce/recruitment, and rising operational costs. More insight into these themes can be found in the report.
In 2024, Christie & Co expects:
- The transactional volume within the market to rebound. However, it’s anticipated that these levels will still fall short of the peak witnessed in 2022. This forecast suggests a gradual recovery and stabilisation of market activity, moving towards a more sustainable pace in comparison to the heights reached during the market’s zenith.
- M&A activity from corporate operators will reflect a strategic recalibration, with these entities showing restraint in their investment choices and a heightened focus on long-term value over immediate expansion.
- During a period where corporate entities are exercising enhanced selectivity in their acquisitions, experienced multi-site independent operators and first-time buyers are poised to capitalise on this opportunity. This scenario presents a prime opportunity for these operators and newcomers to expand their foothold in the market and establish a stronger presence.
- Some group operators will continue with strategic plans to review and divest underperforming or non-core sites, reflecting a focused effort to streamline their operations and enhance overall efficiency.
Paul Graham, Managing Director – Medical at Christie & Co, said: “In a landscape reshaped by economic shifts, the dental sector emerges resilient and ready for transformation. Christie & Co’s latest report captures this pivotal moment, forecasting a 2024 marked by strategic recalibration. This year is set to be a period of balanced growth, stability, and an air of optimism that permeates the sector.”
The report also includes commentary from Christie Finance on the finance landscape in the sector, Christie Insurance on the insurance market, insights on bank and business recovery, a broader business market overview from the company’s Global Managing Director, and a video interview between Jason Wong (Interim CDO England) and Paul Graham (Managing Director – Medical, Christie & Co).
For the full Business Outlook 2024 report, visit: https://www.christie.com/business-outlook-2024/