From the Viewsroom

Fortis: hospital, business or both?

PT Jyothi Datta | Updated on May 15, 2018 Published on May 15, 2018

Shareholders need to go beyond just the financial aspects

Business is business and healthcare is healthcare, but can the twain meet? That’s the question shareholders will have to think through as they vote on who is best suited to acquire Fortis Hospitals.

Some of the industry’s biggest names have come forward with proposals for Fortis Hospitals, which is facing a severe cash crunch. And interestingly, the general buzz among investors is to view the deal through the prism of a regular business transaction. As shareholders and investors are wont to do, the yardstick is who gives investors the best return. And there are multiple, differently structured offers on the table ranging from ₹160-odd per share to now ₹180 per share.

But is it just about the money? It may be argued that the outlook of an investor merely putting in the money may not be divorced from that of a strategic partner, who in this case would also bring in healthcare expertise. While that may be true, it is also true that an investor looking at Fortis just as an investment may not understand the peculiarities of running a hospital and may seek financial returns on the lines of any other business.

Not so long ago, several drug companies sold their businesses entirely or in part to foreign companies. And the government stepped in with restrictions in the interest of the country’s health security. There is a need to keep healthcare services affordable for local patients. And not be susceptible to geo-political threats, as seen with India’s dependence on pharmaceutical ingredients from China.

Businessmen sell their businesses when they cannot run it for varied reasons. But the game changes in healthcare, as it involves services to patients and the price at which they are offered.

The Fortis battle’s contours are similar. It is a business. More so, it is a network of hospitals. Shareholders voting on the offers for Fortis will have to assess who is best suited to grow the hospital services and keep it affordable for Indian patients.

Published on May 15, 2018
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