Fortis eyes stakes in hospital chains

Fortis Healthcare, which operates a chain of hospitals across India, is seeking to buy a minority stake in Manipal Hospitals and Wockhardt. Fortis is currently in talks with the two leading players in the hospital industry. According to sources, the deals may be finalised by the end of (financial  year) 2008-09 itself. CEO and MD Shivender Mohan Singh announced, “We are scouting for acquisitions and are very much in the market. Talks are on with various hospital chains. However, I cannot comment on any individual deal.”  According to a Manipal spokesperson, “Manipal Health System is not part of any consolidation talks and is not in discussions with Fortis.” Fortis currently has 2,600 beds in 22 hospitals and wants to add 550 beds nationwide, including 150 in Mumbai. While confirming that Fortis has approached Manipal, banking sources said chances of Manipal doing a deal with a rival Indian player looked unlikely. Mr Singh had earlier stated that the company was looking at a selling price of INR 50-75 lakh per bed, and had earmarked a fund of around $500 million for acquisitions.  Sources indicate that Fortis is also talking with Chennai-based CMM Hospital for a possible equity purchase. In early 2008, Manipal Hospital was in talks with Singapore’s Parkway Hospital, but the deal fell through due to differences on valuations. Since then, it has talked to private equity funds such as Arcapita, Bain Capital and ICICI Ventures for a possible deal. But due to the international market conditions, discussions have not been conclusive as liquidity has become a constraint. Industry officials familiar with the situation said Manipal needs about $150 million for its expansion plans into markets in the west and the north. Manipal has 17 hospitals under its holding company, Manipal Health System. This does not include Kasturba Medical College.

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