Community Health Explores Options; Apollo Reportedly in Talks

  • Apollo may be interested in some assets, Reuters reports
  • Talks at very preliminary stage, no certainty of a deal

Community Health Systems Inc., a troubled U.S. hospital chain with a market value of about $1.4 billion, said it’s exploring a variety of options with its financial advisers.

The discussions are at a very preliminary stage and there’s no timeline for the review, the company said Monday in a statement. Community Health said that there is no certainty of a deal and it won’t make further public comment while the process is underway.

Among firms interested in Community Health’s assets are the private equity firm Apollo Global Management, Reuters reported Monday, citing people familiar with the matter. A representative for Apollo didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, and Tomi Galin, a Community Health representative, declined to comment.

The stock fell 9.8 percent to close at $11.09 Monday, after jumping 16 percent Friday following a Bloomberg News report that the company was exploring a possible sale. Community Health’s high level of long-term debt -- about $15 billion as of June -- combined with operational issues facing the company, could limit the number of potential buyers, a person familiar with the talks said last week.

Another hurdle might be that many of Community Health’s hospitals are struggling with low or negative margins and may have trouble finding a buyer among other hospital chains, according to Sheryl Skolnick, an analyst with Mizuho Securities who rates the shares neutral. Community Health might get sold in whole or in part, and the entire hospital chain would likely bring a price of about $9.61 a share in a “non-distressed” sale, the analyst wrote in a note to investors Sunday.

The stock was down 3 percent to $121.92 at 10:33 a.m. in New York Monday. Before Friday’s move, the shares had plunged 75 percent in the past 12 months.

Last month, Community Health posted a second-quarter net loss of $1.43 billion after writing down the value of its hospital assets. The Franklin, Tennessee-based company said at the time that it had overestimated the long-term fair value of its hospitals.

While the Affordable Care Act has expanded health coverage, its effects have waned for hospitals over the past year, and Community Health spun off 38 hospitals as Quorum Health Corp. in April as it worked to improve financial performance. The company has said it’s considering selling more.

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