(Bloomberg) --

European investment firm Groupe Bruxelles Lambert SA is nearing a deal to buy health-care services firm Affidea from Switzerland’s richest person Ernesto Bertarelli, according to people familiar with the matter.

A deal could be announced this week after GBL, as the Belgium-based holding company is known, outbid rivals including industry players and private equity firms, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. A purchase could value the Netherlands-based company at about 1.6 billion euros ($1.7 billion), the people said.

The Geneva-based Bertarelli family’s private investment firm B-Flexion, formerly known as Waypoint Capital, has been working with advisers to study a sale or listing of Affidea, Bloomberg News reported in November. Affidea provides diagnostic imaging services as well as outpatient cancer care, chemotherapy and radiation oncology services.

Read More: Swiss Billionaire Said to Weigh Sale of Medical Firm Affidea

A transaction would highlight increasing appetite among family-run investment funds and private capital to do deals, especially targeting companies that can grow through acquisitions and investments over the long term.

Affidea began its operations three decades ago and currently runs about 319 centers in 15 countries in Europe, according to its website. Affidea has grown both organically and via mergers and acquisitions, catering to about 10 million patients every year.

Talks between GBL and B-Flexion are at an advanced stage, the people said. Representatives for GBL declined to comment. B-Flexion and Affidea didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment outside normal business hours. 

GBL was largely built by the deceased Belgian billionaire Albert Frere, who turned his family’s nails and chain business into an empire stretching from energy to alcohol. He held interests in oil producer Total SA and distiller Pernod Ricard SA. GBL named Ian Gallienne sole CEO in December 2018, shortly after the death of Frere, his father-in-law. The firm is still backed by the Frere family and Canada’s Desmarais clan. 

Listed on the Brussels stock exchange for more than 60 years, GBL had a net asset value of 22.5 billion euros at the end of December. Its shares have slid 4.5% this year, valuing the firm at about 14.7 billion euros.

The bulk of the Bertarelli family’s fortune came from the $8.6 billion sale of fertility drug manufacturer Serono to Merck KGaA in 2006, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Most of the proceeds have been reinvested through B-Flexion, whose assets include commercial real estate in London and Switzerland as well as technology-focused venture fund Forestay Capital, and Kedge Capital, which invests in private equity and hedge funds.


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