It was fascinating to meet and chat with 12 different nationalities in less than 48 hours and to learn about the way the sector works across Europe. What is clear is that there are significant differences in the way markets function with varying levels of regulation.
Germany is the largest market and has been on the radar for a number of dental consolidators following regulatory change in 2015/16. With less than 1% of dental practices owned by ‘chains,’ compared to +12% in the UK, the German market seems to offer potential, although barriers to entry are high in relation to other territories. Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands are much smaller markets in terms of numbers of dentists and dental practices and are equally fragmented, with very few dental groups of scale.
We were also looking for signs of pan-European activity, but it seems that as each market is relatively immature. Most operators are focusing on building market share in their own domestic market before venturing further afield. As markets consolidate, however, it is likely that buyers will enter new territories to find value, although this is likely to be seen in the longer term.