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Vestar’s Essent Healthcare Deals Mass. Hospitals

Essent Healthcare has sold a pair of Massachusetts hospitals to Steward Healthcare System LLC of Boston. Essent is a portfolio company of Vestar Capital Partners. The PE firm invested in the hospital system through its fourth fund.

PRESS RELEASE:

NASHVILLE, TN – May 4, 2011 – Essent Healthcare has completed the sale of its two Massachusetts hospitals to Steward Health Care System LLC of Boston. The process began last December when Essent announced it was in talks with Steward to sell Merrimack Valley Hospital in Haverhill and Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer.
The sale was finalized Sunday morning after the Massachusetts Department of Public Health approved the sale and the transfer of the hospital licenses to Steward on April 12.
“The primary reason for our decision to sell Merrimack Valley Hospital and Nashoba Valley Medical Center was related to the uniquely challenging healthcare environment in Massachusetts,” said Essent CEO Mike Browder. “Steward will provide our Ayer and Haverhill hospitals with the economies of scale in a regional footprint they need to not only compete in that state’s atypical operating environment but to continue to thrive and grow.”

Essent had owned Merrimack Valley Hospital and Nashoba Valley Medical Center since September 2001 and December 2002 respectively. The proceeds of the sale will initially be used to pay down debt.

“Essent has a very strong balance sheet and is already much less levered than most investor-owned healthcare companies,” said Browder. “The prepayment of debt will afford us the financial flexibility to focus our efforts on our core three hospitals and to look at other communities.”

Essent Healthcare is a portfolio company of Cressey & Co. and Vestar Capital Partners.

About Essent Healthcare
Essent Healthcare was founded in 1999 with the mission of acquiring community hospitals and providing them with the financial resources and the expertise they need to grow. Essent hospitals include Sharon Hospital in Sharon, Conn., Southwest Regional Medical Center in Waynesburg, Pa. and Paris Regional Medical Center in Paris, Texas. More information can be found at www.essenthealthcare.com.