Carmarthenshire enters exclusive agreement with Kent Neurosciences
A chain of companies and directors link the proposed Wellness Centre in Llanelli to a private hospital in Maidstone and to the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands.
The chain includes Kent Neurosciences Ltd, potentially a partner for Carmarthenshire County Council in the Wellness Centre planned for Delta Lakes.
The council’s Executive Board unanimously resolved, on May 23rd, to enter into an exclusivity agreement with Kent Neurosciences Ltd “with a view to ensuring the aspirations of the Wellness and Science Village within Carmarthenshire”.
Kent Neurosciences Ltd is one of a clutch of companies with various directors in common, now or in the recent past. Kent Neurosciences Property Ltd, KIMS Hospital Ltd, KIMS Property Co Ltd, and KIMS Property Holdings Ltd, have been variously concerned with the development, construction and operation of a private hospital in Maidstone, Kent – the KIMS Hospital, KIMS standing for Kent Institute of Medicine and Surgery.
KIMS Property Company Ltd owns the hospital, which is leased to and operated by KIMS Hospital Ltd. KIMS Property Holdings Ltd is the parent company of KIMS Property Company Ltd, and the ultimate parent of KIMS Property Holdings Ltd is Mercury Management Enterprises Corp, a company registered in the tax haven territory of the British Virgin Islands.
Here we enter the world of the leaked Panama Papers, which show that Mercury Management Enterprises Corp is a shareholder of Petrel Investing Ltd, also in the British Virgin Islands, and Petrel is a shareholder of Mercury. Petrel Investing has connections with other offshore companies – OMNI Capital Assets Ltd, OMNI Management Consultancy FZE, ONTARIO Inc, Sarama Beta Ltd – and an individual, Alexander Timofeev of Toronto, Canada, in linkages that are visible to the public only because of data breaches.
Private hospital required £20 million refinancing deal
The private hospital, which opened in 2014, has been struggling. Original estimates of income from the NHS and self-paying patients were over-optimistic. The initial management team – Franz Dickmann and James Dickmann, solicitor Steven Bernstein, and chief executive Jayne Cassidy – departed from the hospital operating company and new personnel took over. In March 2016 the Kent Messenger newspaper reported[i] that in its first-year, to April 2015, the hospital’s losses were over £15.2 million, nearly twice as great as the revenues, and so a refinancing was urgently sought from its major investors, Realta Investments Ireland Ltd and Regional Healthcare Ltd. Realta Investments Ireland had negative net worth of nearly €5 million in 2014. Regional Healthcare Ltd in the UK was dissolved in April 2015 (but a Cyprus company of the same name remains active).
The hospital refinancing, worth around £20 million in total, included a rent holiday until April 2019, so the intended rent recipient, KIMS Property Company Ltd, will itself have a big income hole to try and fill.
KIMS hospital pioneer Franz Dickmann, and Phyllis Holt (who is also consultant cardiologist Dr Phyllis Holt Dickmann) are the major shareholders in Kent Neurosciences Ltd, according to Companies House on June 1st, with 8,535 and 9,040 shares respectively. Consultant neurologist Dr Mun Seng (Sam) Chong and ASB Law each owned 2,500 shares, and Richard Gullan, consultant neurosurgeon, and Alan Day, retired professor, owned 1,000 apiece. ASB Law, a legal firm operating in Sussex and Kent, is the company secretary, and Dr Sam Chong, Richard Gullan and Alan Day are all current directors of Kent Neurosciences Ltd.
Head of Swansea’s Business School was on board of Kent Neurosciences
Why should Kent Neurosciences be interested in a start-up venture in Llanelli? There is a link in the accomplished person of Professor Marc Clement, Head of the Business School at Swansea University’s School of Management. Llanelli-born Professor Clement was a director of Kent Neurosciences between December 16th 2014 and August 21st 2015.
Currently Professor Clement, holder of patents relating to medical devices, is a director of nine companies, including four based at Technium 2 in Swansea – Cyden Ltd, Ipulse Direct Ltd, Ipulse Ltd, and MC500 Ltd, concerned with the supply of medical and dental instruments. The other five companies are Life Sciences Hub Wales Ltd, Arthurian Life Sciences Ltd, Swansea Innovations Ltd, WWII Ltd and Calon Cardio-Technology Ltd.
Swansea University is part of ARCH – A Regional Collaboration for Health – alongside Hywel Dda University Health Board and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board. ARCH is behind the plan for a Wellness Centre at Llanelli, a venture for which Carmarthenshire County Council would provide the land. The ball-park cost of the project is £60 million, money which has to be raised. Abertawe Bro Morgannwg (ABM) University Health Board reckoned, in a press release dated December 2nd 2015, that “funding could come from the EU but also from private investment and match funding in various forms”.
The Wellness Centre would probably include a new leisure centre, a “wellness education centre”, hub for out-of-hours GP services and various therapies, a hotel and conference centre, and a Hywel Dda branch of Swansea University’s Institute of Life Science, which is based in the College of Medicine. The Institute of Life Science is a partnership between the university, the Welsh Government and ABM University Health Board.
ARCH itself “breaks free from an outdated healthcare system designed over 50 years ago and replaces it with an accessible one specifically planned for today’s needs”, according to ABM University Health Board’s December press release.
The practical benefits for the people of Carmarthenshire are not yet clear.
Echoes of Technium?
A millennial plan for entrepreneurship centres – called Techniums — throughout Wales did not live up to the original aspirations. Wales used to have 10 Technium centres, modelled upon the first, which was set up by the now-defunct Welsh Development Agency (WDA) and by Swansea University in 2001. They were small science parks, intended to foster local innovation and entrepreneurship in a programme which cost around £111 million, but the majority were not a success and in November 2010 the Welsh Government decided to close six of them, including one for performance engineering based in Llanelli, which Carmarthenshire County Council took over and renamed the Beacon Centre. It is now a conference and meeting centre.
Four Techniums remained, two in Swansea, including Technium 2 (the address for four of the companies on which Professor Clement sits as a director), and one each in St Asaph and Cwmbran.
An evaluation by property consultants DTZ indicated that each job created under the Technium programme cost, on average, £190,000 from public funds.[ii]
The inspiration for the Technium project came from a small group of people including Swansea’s Professor Clement and Professor Ken Board, and the WDA’s Gareth Hall (who was the Agency’s final chief executive, between 2004 and closure in 2006).
Professor Clement’s own role in higher education finance expanded in 2007, when he became pro vice chancellor – the chief executive — of the University of Wales, which at the time represented nine higher education centres in Wales. The University of Wales was raking in £ millions from accrediting degrees overseas, in a much-criticised programme which prompted half a dozen leading vice-chancellors to call for the University of Wales to be abolished. In 2011 the University of Wales was subsumed within the colleges of Saint David, Lampeter, and Trinity, Carmarthen, and Swansea Metropolitan University, in a sort of reverse takeover. Professor Clement returned to Swansea University, to be Executive Chair in the Institute of Life Science.
Now, his jobs include board membership of the ARCH programme.
The concept of a medical research centre in Llanelli, raising the profile of Wales as a country of scientific excellence and innovation, has a definite allure. Even so, and allowing for Professor Clement’s recent involvement with Kent Neurosciences, is this company – full of medical expertise but light on proven business success in the ‘wellness’ arena – the most appropriate partner for Carmarthenshire County Council in the Wellness Centre project?
And, perish the thought, could the Wellness Centre be a conduit for public money to flow through networks of companies into far-away entities registered in the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens?
[i] ‘KIMS Hospital in Maidstone sought £20m hand-out after making huge loss’. by Chris Price, March 11th 2016.
[ii] ‘What we can learn from £100m and 10 years wasted on the Technium programme’ by Dylan Jones-Evans, Wales Online, June 1st 2013.