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KKR leads record $14.8 billion bid for Australia’s Ramsay Health Care

By Scott Murdoch and Harish Sridharan

(Reuters) – A group led by KKR & Co (NYSE:KKR) made an unsolicited near-$15 billion bid for Ramsay Health Care Ltd on Wednesday, underlining buyout funds’ current appetite for healthcare assets and pushing the Australian firm’s shares up as much as 30%.

If successful, the takeover would rank as the biggest private equity-backed buyout of an Australian company, and would also be the biggest deal in Australia this year, nearly doubling activity, according to Refinitiv data.

Ramsay said in a statement it would provide the KKR-led group with due diligence on a non-exclusive basis and talks were at a preliminary stage.

Australian pension fund HESTA and sovereign fund Abu Dhabi Investment Authority are participants in the consortium, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter. The person declined to be named as the companies’ involvement was not public.

HESTA and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The non-binding proposal comes as record-low interest rates prompt private equity firms, superannuation and pension funds with ample liquidity to invest in healthcare and infrastructure assets.

The A$88 cash per share proposal, worth A$20.05 billion ($14.8 billion) in total, represents a nearly 37% premium to Ramsay’s Tuesday closing price of A$64.39. The offer sent the shares up as much as 30% to A$83.55 in early trade, their biggest-ever intraday jump, before paring gains to be up 25%.

“The 31.3% premium to Ramsay’s price over the last six months is reasonable for a change of control,” said Brian Freitas, an analyst who publishes on research platform Smartkarma.

“The share offer implies a forward earnings multiple of 33 times versus an average of 17 times for its peers, so shareholders should be fine with the proposed offer price.”

Ramsay said it had reviewed the proposal with its advisers and sought further information from the consortium regarding its funding and structure of the deal.

KKR did not respond to a request for comment.

Refinitiv data shows total deal value of $17.4 billion in Australia so far this year, with a 41% slump in the first quarter from a year earlier. The country saw a flurry of blockbuster takeovers in the past year, including the purchase of Sydney Airport and Block Inc’s takeover of buy-now-pay-later star Afterpay.

The coronavirus pandemic has weighed on healthcare operators including Ramsay, with the shutdown of non-urgent surgeries, staffing shortages due to isolation regulations, and upward wage pressure weighing on earnings.

Last year , Australian biopharmaceutical giant CSL (OTC:CSLLY) Ltd announced a $11.7 billion offer for Swiss drugmaker Vifor Pharma AG.

The latest deal would represent a substantial return for the Paul Ramsay Foundation, the company’s biggest shareholder with an 18.8% stake.

Started by Paul Ramsay in 1964 by converting a Sydney guest house into one of the country’s first psychiatric hospitals, the Foundation sold nearly 11% of the company in 2019 for A$61.80 per share.

The foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ramsay says it operates hospitals and clinics across 10 countries in three continents, with a network of more than 530 locations. It has 72 private hospitals and day surgery units in Australia, while it operates clinics and primary care units in about 350 locations across six countries in Europe.

KKR currently owns French healthcare group Elsan.

Earlier this year, Ramsay and Malaysia’s Sime Darby Holdings received a $1.35 billion buyout offer from IHH Healthcare Bhd for their Asia joint venture. Ramsay said it was still pursuing this transaction.

Ramsay has hired UBS and Herbert Smith Freehills as financial and legal advisers, respectively, for the KKR-led consortium’s proposal. KKR is advised by Barrenjoey Capital and Credit Suisse (SIX:CSGN), according to sources.

($1 = 1.3535 Australian dollars)

Source : Reuters

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