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Hong Leong, TPG in advanced talks to buy Asian hospital operator

A deal could value the hospital business at US$1.2 billion, excluding operations in India, say sources

Hong Kong

A GROUP of investors including Malaysian conglomerate Hong Leong Group and US buyout firm TPG Capital is in advanced talks to buy hospital operator Columbia Asia, according to people familiar with the matter.

A deal could value the hospital business at US$1.2 billion, excluding operations in India, said the people, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. While an agreement may be reached soon, talks are ongoing and could still fall apart, the people said.

Other health-care companies and buyout firms have expressed interest in acquiring the assets, the people said.

Investment firm Columbia Pacific Management had been considering selling Columbia Asia for as much as US$2 billion, people familiar with the matter said in November, when Bloomberg News first reported on the sale.

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A representative for Seattle-based Columbia Pacific didn't immediately respond to requests for comment, while representatives for Hong Leong and TPG declined to comment. The Wall Street Journal reported the exclusive talks earlier.

Columbia Asia, which opened its first hospital in 1996, has 18 medical facilities in Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia. It runs another 11 in India.

The parent company, Columbia Pacific, was founded by Daniel Baty and his sons Stanley and Brandon, according to its website. Columbia Pacific also owns a separate health care business in China as well as a senior care business in the country.

Private hospital operators in Asia have emerged to meet the demands of middle-class and affluent consumers looking for better medical care. That's attracted interest from investors seeking to tap into the growth potential.

Another example of the trend is billionaire Anthoni Salim's plan to sell a stake in his Metro Pacific Investments Corp's hospital unit that could value the business at more than US$2 billion, people with knowledge of the matter have said. It's attracted interest from buyout firms and regional health-care companies, the people said. BLOOMBERG

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