September 25, 2014 / 7:47 PM / 5 years ago

UnitedHealth joins bidders for Espirito Santo health unit

LISBON, Sept 25 (Reuters) - U.S. UnitedHealth Group has put in a bid for Portugal’s Espirito Santo Saude (ESS) , the hospital business of the indebted Espirito Santo family, Portugal’s CMVM market regulator said on Thursday.

CMVM said UnitedHealth had made a direct offer to bankrupt Espirito Santo family company Rioforte for the purchase of Espirito Santo Saude at a price of 4.75 euros a share, higher than all the previous bids.

The offer came as one of the previous bidders — Portuguese healthcare firm Jose de Mello — said it was pulling out because competition authorities would not be able to give their opinion on the bid by Friday. The firm had until Friday to formally register its bid.

UnitedHealth made its offer directly to Rioforte rather than through the stock exchange. ESS is 51 percent owned by the Espirito Santo family.

Rioforte and the Espirito Santo family’s other main holding companies filed for creditor protection in July under a mountain of debt.

CMVM said Rioforte is open to a sale of ESS but wants to “privilege a deal in a process that is open and competitive through a public takover bid”.

This week, Chinese conglomerate Fosun International Ltd bid 4.72 euros a share in a public offer for ESS.

Mexico’s Grupo Angeles made the first bid for ESS, which owns hospitals, clinics and elderly care homes in Portugal. (Reporting by Axel Bugge; editing by David Clarke)

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