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TPG Is said to near deal for US$1.1b Indian hospital chain Fortis

[MUMBAI] A consortium led by TPG is nearing an agreement to gain control of Fortis Healthcare, India's second-largest private hospital chain by market value, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The investor group, which also includes Manipal Health Enterprises, could announce a deal as soon as the next few days, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. Under the plan being discussed, the operations of closely-held Manipal - whose backers include TPG and Temasek Holdings- would be combined with Fortis's business, the people said.

Fortis is discussing issuing around 40 billion rupees (S$810.1 million) of new stock to TPG and Manipal through a preferential allotment, one of the people said. That would make the consortium the biggest shareholder in the publicly-traded company, which has a market value of about US$1.1 billion, the person said.

The enlarged company will seek to buy out other shareholders of SRL, the medical diagnostics provider that's currently part-owned by Fortis, according to the people. The TPG-backed investor group is in negotiations to acquire stakes in SRL from private-equity investors who hold about 30 per cent of the company, one of the people said. A deal could value SRL at 34 billion rupees to 40 billion rupees, the person said.

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The TPG-led group is seeking control of Fortis as the hospital chain's founders battle allegations of financial irregularities. India's fraud watchdog and stock regulator are investigating Fortis after Bloomberg News reported that the Singh brothers took at least 5 billion rupees out of Fortis without board approval.

Representatives for Fortis and TPG declined to comment, while an official at Manipal didn't immediately answer phone calls seeking comment. The situation is fluid, and talks could drag on or break down, the people said. The deal will be conditional on receiving approval from the Competition Commission of India, according to one of the people. 

Singapore Trust TPG and Manipal's cash outlay to gain control of Fortis and SRL may total as much as 60 billion rupees, one person said. Fortis could use the money invested by TPG and Manipal to fund its previously announced purchase of the assets of Singapore-listed RHT Health Trust, which owns some of Fortis's clinics, as well as for debt repayment, according to the person.  It could take nearly two years to complete all parts of the multistep transaction being contemplated, the person said.

TPG bought a significant minority stake in Manipal for 9 billion rupees in 2015, the private equity firm said at the time. Manipal has more than 5,000 operational beds while Fortis has about 10,000 potential beds and 314 diagnostic centers, according to the companies' websites.

Yes Bank has become the biggest shareholder in Fortis after it and other lenders called in shares that had been put up as collateral by founders Malvinder Singh and Shivinder Singh, Fortis chief executive officer Bhavdeep Singh said March 1. Three to four potential buyers have been interested in the hospital operator for a while, he said.