Private equity group CVC Capital Partners has bought stakes in two UK-based companies whose software underpins the NHS’s coronavirus vaccine rollout, as it seeks to capitalise on Britain’s inoculation success in order to sell the technology to other countries.
The Luxembourg-based buyouts group has bought a majority stake in System C and a minority stake in its partner company, Graphnet Health. Together they run the IT system that the NHS uses to invite people for coronavirus vaccines and track who has received the jabs.
The programme, called the National Immunisation Management System, is used to produce the national statistics on how many people have been vaccinated in England. Separately, it handles childhood vaccination programmes.
The CVC deal is relatively small in financial terms, valuing the companies together at significantly less than £500m, according to people familiar with the matter. But the buyout group hopes the businesses will grow quickly through international sales of the technology that has played a role in one of the world’s fastest coronavirus vaccination programmes, the people said.
More than 15m people in the UK have been given their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine in just over two months, as the country has raced ahead. Only Israel and the United Arab Emirates, among larger countries, have inoculated more per head of the population.
The investments mark the latest move by a private equity firm to buy into companies that stand to benefit directly from the pandemic. Swedish buyouts group EQT acquired Schülke, a hand sanitiser business, in a roughly €900m deal as the crisis began last spring.
The NHS uses System C and Graphnet’s software to manage the process of sending letters to people across England when it deems them eligible for a coronavirus vaccination. The letters tell people they are eligible and outline what to do next. The companies’ software does not run bookings systems, which are organised locally by primary care networks and nationally by NHS Digital.
US private equity group Symphony Technology has owned System C since 2014, before which it was a unit of pharmaceuticals group McKesson Corporation. Symphony also owned a minority stake in Graphnet.
While the coronavirus vaccination software stands to be among the fastest-growing parts of System C and Graphnet’s business, it accounts for a small part of the groups’ current operations.
Maidstone-based System C also provides software to track patients’ hospital treatments and manage children’s health records. Graphnet runs a software tool that allows GPs, hospitals and care homes to share details of the care that patients have received.
System C made £1.7m in pre-tax profits in the year to March 2019, according to its most recent published accounts. Graphnet, based in Milton Keynes, made £500,000 of pre-tax profits in the same period.
A spokeswoman for System C and Graphnet said it was “pleased” about CVC’s investment. CVC declined to comment.
Additional reporting by Sarah Neville in London