BAD HOMBURG, Germany, March 24 German healthcare conglomerate Fresenius (FREG.DE) said it was ready to take part in an expected upswing in hospital privatisations this year.
Fresenius's Helios unit -- among the three largest German private hospital operators with unlisted Asklepios and Rhoen-Klinikum (RHKG.DE) -- bought one hospital in 2010 after five purchases in 2009.
New rules in German hospital reimbursement and a government stimulus programme in the wake of the economic crisis gave many houses a shot in the arm last year, helping them avert a sale. Privatisations usually come up against political resistance and public-sector operators often regard a sale as a last resort.
"An increasing number of interesting hospitals are on the market again. In 2011 there will be more privatisation of hospitals," the head of Helios, Francesco De Meo, said in a statement on Thursday. Helios accounted for about 10 percent of Fresenius's operating profit last year.
Nine hospitals were put on the market in the first quarter with combined revenues of 411 million euros ($578 million), up more than 50 percent year-on-year, period, Helios said.
Germany's cash-strapped municipalities have racked up a shortfall at least 12 billion euros in essential investments in hospitals, according to German economics think tank RWI which expects privatisation to regain momentum as growth in hospital budgets will be limited amid higher costs.
Public-sector hospitals account for roughly half of Germany's Hospital beds. (Writing by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Dan Lalor) ($1 = 0.7109 euro)