| FRANKFURT, March 21
FRANKFURT, March 21 Sana Kliniken AG, the
third-largest private-sector hospitals operator in Germany, has
trained its sights on major rivals as potential takeover targets
in the long term to keep up with industry leader Fresenius
Its peers Asklepios and Rhoen-Klinikum could
become merger partners at some point as they are under pressure
from Fresenius and its Helios hospitals unit, unlisted company
Sana's finance chief Thomas Lemke told Reuters.
"There are many reasons that prompt rational people to think
about it," Lemke said when asked whether the company had any
interest in Rhoen and Asklepios in the longer term.
There are no talks or plans for a concrete tie-up, he said,
stressing that the owners would have to be willing to sell.
Diversified healthcare group Fresenius has been scooping up
hospital chains, starting in 2005 with the purchase of Helios
Having bagged smaller hospitals operator Damp Group for 560
million euros ($769 million) in 2012, Fresenius last month
completed the purchase of most of Rhoen-Klinikum's hospitals for
3 billion euros, cementing its No.1 position in the market.
"The size of the combined group will put more pressure on
all other hospitals to improve efficiency," Sana's Lemke said.
Sana, owned by 31 medical insurance groups including units
of Allianz and Munich Re, has no shortage
of financial backing.
Private operators in Germany, which own about one in three
hospitals, have grown by taking over underfunded public-sector
hospitals from debt-laden German municipalities, upgrading their
equipment and looking to run them more efficiently.
But many municipalities have recently fought to delay a sale
as long as possible because of strong political opposition to
The owner of Asklepios, 70-year-old founder Bernard
Broermann, is considering a stock market listing for Germany's
second-largest private hospitals chain among other options,
people familiar with the matter said last month.
A spokesman for Broermann said he had no short term or long
term plans to sell the company.
As for Rhoen, which sold about two thirds of its assets to
Fresenius, Lemke said that Sana would be interested in acquiring
some of its remaining hospitals.
Rhoen would first have to fix organisational issues at its
largest complex Giessen-Marburg, Germany's only privately owned
university teaching hospital, before the group as a whole could
become a partner in a tie-up, Lemke added.
There is also uncertainty linked to Rhoen's diversified
ownership structure, he said.
A Rhoen spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
After the Rhoen deal, the hospitals unit of Fresenius will
have annual sales of about 5.5 billion euros, compared with the
3 billion that No. 2 Asklepios posted in 2012.
Sana had 2 billion euros in sales last year while Rhoen is
left with about 1 billion in revenues after the divestment.
(Writing by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Anthony Barker)