Fortis set for fresh takeover battle as Munjal-Burman okay new bidding
Photo Credit: Shah Junaid/VCCircle

Fortis Healthcare Ltd is set for a renewed bidding war after the winning consortium of Hero Enterprise Investment Office and the Burman Family Office gave its consent on Monday to reopen the takeover process for India’s second-largest hospital chain.

“We write this letter with deep anguish and regret… we provide our consent for the company to re-open a bidding process...” said Fortis’s stock market disclosure quoting a letter from the Munjal-Burman combine. Hero Enterprise is led by chairman Sunil Munjal, part of the family that runs Hero MotoCorp Ltd, India’s biggest two-wheeler maker. The Burman family is the promoter of consumer goods maker Dabur India Ltd.

The consortium was selected as the winner of the takeover battle on 10 May over four other heavyweight contenders including TPG-backed Manipal Hospital Enterprises Pvt. Ltd, Malaysia’s IHH Healthcare and KKR-backed Radiant Life Care Pvt. Ltd.

However, the decision was likely made against the opinion of some of its advisors and had not gone down well with a section of the company’s shareholders. Within days of the winning announcement, TPG-Manipal raised the offer to buy Fortis and later extended its validity period. IHH Healthcare also extended the validity period of its offer.

Coupled with the aggression of these bidders, the fresh bidding war also looms large after a dramatic upheaval at the Fortis board. Shareholders on Wednesday voted to remove Brian Tempest as director from the company’s board.

Tempest was one of four directors appointed to the board by the Fortis founders, brothers Malvinder and Shivinder Singh. The other three quit over the weekend.

Investors Jupiter India Fund and East Bridge Capital had demanded that the four directors quit the board as they had failed to work in the interest of the company’s shareholders while deciding the offers made for the hospital chain.

In a separate filing on Thursday, Fortis said it had not received any communication from the market regulator with regard to allegations of insider-trading violations and regulatory lapses.

The board now has only four directors. While voting out Tempest, Fortis shareholders also approved the appointment of three new directors — Suvalaxmi Chakraborty, Ravi Rajagopal and Indrajit Banerjee – whose names were recommended by activist investors. The fourth remaining board member is Rohit Bhasin.

The Fortis takeover saga has seen many twists and turns since the company announced in late March that its board had approved selling its hospital business to Manipal. Since then, IHH, Munjal-Burman, KKR-backed Radiant Life Care and China’s Fosun have also joined the takeover fray.

To add to the drama, Fortis’s single-largest shareholder, Yes Bank, has urged the board to consider revised bids for the hospital chain (of Manipal Hospital Enterprises and IHH Healthcare) despite board acceptance of the Munjal-Burman offer, said a report in The Economic Times, citing people in the know.

Yes Bank, according to the report, also urged the board to consider inviting those that did not submit or revise their bids.

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