HCA buyout unravels

Wall Street will just have to wait for its next big leveraged buyout, because it looks like leading hospital management company HCA isn't going to oblige. The company had convened a special board committee to consider a buyout offer from a group of private equity firms that included Bain Capital, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Merrill Lynch and the family of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, whose father and brother founded HCA. But apparently the company's $11 billion debt load was an obstacle to getting an attractive share price from the suitors. HCA's current market cap is about $17.6 billion. HCA has been on this merry-go-round before, taking itself private in 1989 for $5.1 billion to avoid a hostile takeover. The company went public again in 1992, and later merged with Columbia Healthcare. It now owns 182 hospitals and 94 surgery centers, and reported revenue of $24.5 billion and net income of $1.4 billion for 2005.

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