UnitedHealth to Buy DaVita's Physician Group For $4.9 Billion Cash

UnitedHealth's Optum to acquire DaVita Medical Group, DaVita up 3% premarket

UnitedHealth Group's Optum to acquire dialysis-center chain DaVita for $4.9B

DaVita, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Denver, will give Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group more access to dialysis patients across the country and medical-group patients in six states.

The acquisition, expected to be finalized in 2018, DaVita would add 300 primary and specialty care clinics that serve 1.7 million patients into the OptumCare division.

Through its Optum unit, which operates a large pharmacy benefit manager and offers a wide array of health care services, UnitedHealth Group is among the most diversified and the most successful of the large insurers. DaVita operates almost 300 clinics across a half-dozen states, including California and Florida, including eight in Manatee County and one in Lakewood Ranch just south of University Parkway.

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This is UnitedHealth's second major purchase of the year after buying Surgical Care Affiliates for about $2.3 billion in March.

The acquisition of DaVita would expand that reach considerably.

DaVita bought the big medical group HealthCare Partners LLC in 2012 in a $4.42 billion deal that diversified it away from its core kidney-care business.

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But the company has struggled with the physician operation.

The announcement of the sale of DaVita Medical Group comes less than one month after CEO Kent Thiry said during an earnings call that he would consider divesting the unit that includes some 30,000 physicians after years of disappointing returns. At the same time, DaVita has been under pressure in its main business because of scrutiny on the relationship of it and other kidney-care providers to a charity, American Kidney Fund, that has helped patients pay for health coverage.

DaVita plans to use the funds from the deal to settle financial matters including stock repurchases from shareholders and paying off corporate debts.

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