Columbia Asia Hospitals—a $2-billion chain—is up for grabs. With 29 medical facilities and 2,600 beds, that’s Columbia Asia’s total value across Asian countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and of course, India. Unsurprisingly, a large number of international private equity firms (PEs) and other buyers want in.

Columbia Asia entered India in 2003 to run community hospitals. Its premise was access—people should have medical care within 10 kilometres of their homes for 70-80% of their healthcare needs. The chain’s dozen hospitals in India, however, are mid-sized, with fewer than 1,200 beds in all, and yet, the chance to buy it is being touted as a ‘once-in-a-decade’ opportunity for potential suitors.

While not confirming the outright sale of the chain, Nathan McLemore, managing director of Columbia Pacific Management, said in an email that the hospital group plans to grow by adding two new hospitals per year, with an aim for 1,100 more beds in five years. To do this, the Columbia Pacific has launched a process to raise additional capital to fund Columbia Asia’s next phase of growth. This, he says, has received strong interest from investors, adding that the capital raise is proceeding as planned. Columbia Pacific is the holding company of Columbia Asia.

Sources The Ken has spoken to, though, indicate this isn’t a simple fund raise. People close to the matter say the chain will sell all properties or nothing. “They are very open about it,” says an interested buyer from Bengaluru, who requested anonymity because his hospital group is a direct competitor. Columbia Asia, however, did not confirm the exact stake up for sale.

Columbia Asia is a desirable property because of its great locations and quality of service. In India, the chain’s hospitals occupy prime real estate in some of the most populous areas in metros. McLemore said there is substantial interest from investors as theirs is the only hospital company operating across four highly desirable markets with a single brand but that it would be premature for him to comment about valuation at this time.

But in a country rife with major private hospital chains such as Apollo, Fortis, Narayana Health, Medanta and Manipal providing specialised tertiary care, it’s hard to survive. Despite this, Columbia Asia tried to move up the value chain with secondary care.

Except, the Indian hospital business is not simple.

A. There is almost too much competition and not much to gain for a chain that doesn’t focus on super-specialty care. B. The takeover game is in full swing even amidst the big names mentioned above—Manipal Hospitals is in the process of closing its acquisition of New Delhi-based Medanta for Rs 5,800 crore ($833 million). Against this backdrop, the sale of Columbia Asia is no shocker.

That Columbia Asia is consolidating assets to make the process smoother is apparent from its corporate filings.


Suraksha P

Suraksha writes on Healthcare and Pharma. She has been a journalist for five years, reporting for The New Indian Express in Bengaluru and Chennai, and The Times of India, Delhi. In her previous stints she has written on health, civic issues and education. She investigated cover up of corruption in the state health department’s think tank, narrated harrowing tales of women who underwent unwarranted hysterectomies, and wrote about how loss of biometrics came in the way of Leprosy patients getting an Aadhaar card and thereby pension. She can be reached at suraksha at the-ken dot com.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at [email protected] detailing the error or queries.