FTC allows AZ merger to move ahead

The FTC has decided not to challenge a planned merger between two-hospital Sun Health and 19-hospital Banner Health, both based in Arizona. Phoenix-based Banner and Sun City-based Sun Health signed a letter of intent to merge in September of 2007, and applied for antitrust clearance in November. The FTC did issue a second request for information on the deal, but was ultimately satisfied. Perhaps the hottest competitive region the hospitals will play in is a section of the state's Maricopa County known as the Northwest Valley, observers note. Sun Health's two hospitals are both located there, as is Banner Health's Thunderbird Medical Center. The two should face competition from Catholic Healthcare West, which last year purchased 45 acres of land for a hospital about five miles away from one of the Sun Health facilities.

The approval must come as a relief to the two systems, particularly given the FTC's decidedly mixed record on hospital mergers of late. Most recently the FTC, along with the Virginia attorney general, stepped in to block the planned merger of northern Virginia's Inova Health System with rival Prince William Hospital, a move the agencies said would lock up the market in that region unfairly.

To learn more about the deal:
- read this Modern Healthcare piece (reg. req.)

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