| LONDON, April 2
LONDON, April 2 Healthcare group HCA
International must sell one or more of its hospitals in London,
Britain's competition regulator said on Wednesday, after finding
it had too strong a grip on the market for both self-pay and
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it was
clear HCA's market power in central London allowed it to charge
higher prices to insurers. The company, part of U.S.-based HCA
Holdings Inc, owned more than half of the available
overnight bed capacity, it said.
The company said it intended to vigorously challenge the
ruling in the courts.
In a related move, the CMA stopped short of making rival
healthcare provider BMI, Britain's largest operator, sell any of
its centres, despite previously saying many private hospitals
faced too little competition in local areas across Britain.
The CMA had said in January that BMI, owned by South
Africa's Netcare and private equity group Apax Partners
, could be required to sell seven hospitals. But it had
now decided it could not find clear enough evidence that a
concentration of providers in areas outside central London led
to higher prices for insured patients.
For HCA, the CMA's decision means it would be required to
sell the London Bridge and Princess Grace hospitals, or
alternatively the Wellington hospital.
"The sale of HCA hospitals will significantly increase
competition in central London, in particular by allowing the
insurers to offer corporates and individual policy holders a
comprehensive alternative to HCA," said Roger Witcomb, chairman
of the CMA's Private Healthcare Inquiry Group.
But HCA criticised the finding.
"HCA International made significant investments to transform
these facilities into some of London's leading hospitals," said
Mike Neeb, president and CEO of HCA International.
"In failing to consider our investment, the mix of patients
we treat and the complex procedures we carry (out), the CMA has
drawn inaccurate conclusions about HCA International's pricing -
something which we strongly refute and will of course be
challenging," Neeb said.
BMI Healthcare Chief Executive Stephen Collier said the
commission had reached a "sensible, measured and fair
The CMA's measures also include a crackdown on benefits and
incentive schemes provided to referring clinicians by private
hospital operators, and providing more information to patients
on fees and the performance of hospitals.
"A more transparent market with patients actively making
choices will drive hospital operators to compete on the things
that matter to patients," Witcomb said.
(Editing by David Holmes)