Reports: Community Health to bid on Ardent target

Would-be buyers of bankrupt Forum Health face August 3 bid deadline

Ardent Health Services may have some local competition for its planned purchase of Forum Health.

According to local reports, Franklin-based Community Health Systems has joined the bidding process for the bankrupt Ohio health system, which in June entered into a letter of intent to be acquired by Nashville's Ardent Health Services for $69.8 million.

A spokeswoman for CHS declined to comment this morning, noting the company does not discuss its acquisition strategy. But at this stage in the bankruptcy process — which requires the hospital accept competing bids in order to maximize the value of its assets for its creditors — competition seems likely.

In a research note to investors Avondale Partners Analyst Kemp Dolliver said beyond CHS, logical competing bidders for the nonprofit health system include Universal Health Services, LHP Hospital Partners and Franklin-based Iasis Healthcare.

Interested buyers have until the close of business on August 3 to submit offers. An auction will be held on August 5 with a sale hearing following five days later. Forum issued a statement yesterday saying it is "encouraging other parties to perform due diligence and to submit a competing bid," noting that will help it achieve the "highest and best value" for its assets.

If CHS joins the bidding process, it will its second go-around with Forum. The company reportedly signed a letter of intent to purchase Forum in 2006, then backed away from the nonbinding agreement a month later. So far this year acquisition-hungry CHS has closed on an acquisition in South Carolina and inked a letter of intent for a facility in West Virginia. Earlier this month it submitted an unsolicited $1 billion bid for a Kentucky health system. 

Forum filed for bankruptcy in May 2009 with $140 million in debt. Ardent plans to spend $69.8 million for the health system, assume $25 million in liabilities and perform $50 million to $70 million in capital improvements to the three-hospital system.