FRANKFURT Feb 24 The owner of Asklepios Kliniken GmbH is considering a stock market listing for Germany's second-largest private hospitals chain, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
They said Bernard Broermann, the group's 70-year-old founder, was looking at taking Asklepios public in the medium term, among other options. That could give the firm access to more funding in a rapidly consolidating industry.
However, Broermann was keen for the firm to remain independent, and could do this by creating a listed entity in which a foundation set up by the founder keeps control of strategic decisions and board nominations, they said.
"Broermann wants to preserve the work of his lifetime, not split it up or sell," one industry source said.
Broermann has been talking to bankers but is at an early stage of considering his options, with no transaction expected in the first half of the year, financial sources said.
A spokesman for Asklepios said there were no immediate plans to take the company public.
Diversified healthcare group Fresenius has been scooping up hospital chains, starting in 2005 with the purchase of Helios Kliniken GmbH.
The company completed the takeover of smaller hospitals operator Damp Group for 560 million euros ($769 million)including debt in 2012 and this month won antitrust approval to acquire most of Rhoen-Klinikum's hospitals for 3 billion euros.
Fresenius chose to buy Rhoen assets rather than the whole company because Broermann in 2012 amassed a large enough stake in Rhoen to block Fresenius's initial attempt to buy Rhoen outright.
Private operators in Germany have also grown by taking over underfunded public-sector hospitals from debt-laden German municipalities, upgrading their equipment and looking to run them more efficiently.
But political opposition against hospital privatisation has been strong in Germany, prompting many municipalities to delay a sale as long as possible.
After the Rhoen deal, Fresenius's hospitals unit will have annual sales of more than 5.5 billion euros, compared with the 3 billion Asklepios posted in 2012.
Smaller unlisted rival Sana had about 1.8 billion euros in 2012 while Rhoen will have less than 1 billion in revenues after the divestment.
($1 = 0.7285 euros) (Reporting by Andreas Kroener, Alexander Huebner, Arno Schuetze and Frank Siebelt; Writing by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Mark Potter)