Officials at one of Britain’s largest care home operations have resumed a delayed disintegration of the group by entering talks to sell its business in Northern Ireland.

Sky News realizes that Alvarez & Marsal, who has been overseeing the bankrupt parent company of Four Seasons Health Care (FSHC) for nearly 18 months, has started selling a portfolio of 42 locations in the country.

The sale comes amid a crisis for the UK care home sector, which has been trying to deal with the disastrous impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Four Seasons Northern Ireland business auction, which is still in an early stage, includes homes that account for just under a quarter of the company’s remaining 184 properties across the UK.

Approximately 2,200 people work in the Northern Ireland operation, out of a total of 12,000 in the group.

The parent company of the Four Seasons collapsed in April of last year, raising concerns about the future of what was then Britain’s second-largest group of care homes.

Since then, management of the vast majority of rental homes has been transferred to other operators such as Barchester.

The company’s future has been virtually uncertain since 2017, when Terra Firma Capital Partners’ owner failed to meet a debt deadline.

Terra Firma first invested in the company in 2012, after paying £ 825m for it.

In August, Four Seasons said acceptance levels are starting to recover after falling more than 70% below pre-coronavirus levels.

She added that protection and self-isolation had led to an increase in employee absenteeism to just under 11%, although this has decreased since then.

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“Our top priority remains ensuring the safety, quality of life and continuity of care for all of our residents,” a spokesperson for Four Seasons Health Care said this weekend.

A source close to the company said significant progress has been made in restructuring Four Seasons since last year, including the consolidation of its home care operations and the successful migration of a cumbersome rental portfolio.

They added that selling its operations in Northern Ireland was “strategic rationale” because it operated in “a separate area and under a different regulatory system”.