Australia’s Ramsay Health Care has raised its offer to acquire UK-based Spire Healthcare to approximately $1.44bn (£1.04bn), following reports of investor opposition to the previous bid.

The development increases the offer from $3.4 (£2.40) per share to £2.50 a share. This would be the final offer by Ramsay unless another party bids for Spire Healthcare, which is a private hospital group.

In May, the companies agreed to an approximately $1.4bn (£999.6m) deal. Ramsay expects the transaction to bolster its business in the UK by combining the Australian group’s 47 hospitals and clinics with its 37 across the country.

Ramsay’s latest offer is a premium of about 30% to Spire’s share price the day before the first bid was made on 26 May 2021. The initial offer was a 24.4% premium to the closing price on 25 May.

In a statement, Spire Healthcare said: “Since announcement of the initial offer, the board has engaged extensively with shareholders and in particular noted the views of certain shareholders about the price under the initial offer.

“The board believes that the increased final offer is in the best interests of Spire shareholders as a whole, and accordingly unanimously recommends that shareholders vote in favour of the increased final offer at the court meeting and general meeting due to be held on 12 July 2021.”

The plans that backed the increased offer include the forecasted growth of patient volumes this year and in the future owing to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) waiting lists, Spire Healthcare noted.

Spire Healthcare expects the NHS will require increased contracting with the private sector in the second half of this year while the health service’s intentions are still unclear.

After the acquisition, the new combined company is expected to overtake BMI/Circle as the UK’s biggest private hospital group. BMI and Circle merged in 2019.