The UK's leading provider of care home facilities is to list its shares on the stock market, in a flotation which could value the firm at £550m.
Southern Cross says its focus will remain on high quality care
Southern Cross Healthcare operates 578 homes for the elderly, while also providing long-term care to people with physical and learning disabilities.
The firm plans to raise £275m from the flotation to enhance services in its homes and to open new facilities.
Population ageing has fuelled major expansion in the personal care sector.
Opportunities for growth
Southern Cross operates nearly 29,000 beds for both private patients and those paid for by the NHS and local authorities.
It has expanded rapidly in the past two years since it was acquired by private equity firm Blackstone Capital Partners for £162m in 2004.
Since then, Southern Cross has tripled the number of homes it manages, largely through acquisitions.
Last year it bought the Highfield Care and Ashbourne Care companies to establish itself as the country's leading care home provider.
However, it still operates just 6% of beds in the country and its management believes the flotation will allow it to grow further as the market continues to consolidate.
"Having led the much-needed consolidation of a fragmented market, Southern Cross now has a leading position in the UK care homes sector, with highly respected brands and many opportunities for sustainable growth in future years," said Philip Scott, its chief executive.
The firm's revenues will exceed £600m this year, with 70% coming from NHS and local authority referrals.
Blackstone will sell a large chunk of its shares through the flotation - reducing its holding from its current 88% to below 50% - but will remain the company's largest investor.