US-based investment fund Columbia Pacific has announced the closure of a $135 million second round of financing for its Asian hospital entity, Columbia Asia which operates a consortium of healthcare companies across Asia. This brings the total equity raised for Columbia Asia to $325 million. While the firm has a strong presence throughout Asia, the majority of its growth will be in India. The Asian operations are headed by Seattle natives Rick Evans and Matt Powell.

Columbia Pacific manages two investment funds, the $325 million Columbia Asia fund and the diversified $200 million Columbia Pacific Opportunity Fund (in June this year it made a $173 million offer for NYSE listed hospitality firm Red Lion Hotel). The investors include US

individuals and families, with the Seattle-based Baty family as the principal investor in both funds. The family's patriarch, Daniel Baty, founded and at present is the co-CEO of Emeritus Corp, an operator of assisted-living centers.

Columbia Asia's structure is a blend of a healthcare provider backed by an investment fund. It has a strategy of focusing on full-service hospitals built in residential or neighbourhood areas. With efficient management and fewer beds, the hospitals have an average patient stay of just two days, which keeps costs down.

Columbia Asia opened its first hospital in Malaysia in 1994 and currently operates 13 medical facilities in Asia. When it completes the projects that it is engaged in right now it will have 21 hospitals and an airport clinic in India, 11 hospitals in Malaysia besides three hospitals each in Vietnam and Indonesia. These together represent an investment of over $ 600 million.

Indian healthcare is fast emerging as an attractive investment point for private equity and other investment funds. After a host of deals in small and mid size regional hospitals including those struck by ICICI Venture (Sahyadri Hospital--Pune, Vikram Hospital--Mysore, Medica

Synergy-- Kolkata, RG Stone), IFC (Rockland Hospitals), AIG (Narayana Hrudayalaya) and Ashmore(Quality Care India).


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