Apollo Hospitals promoters look for partner to release pledged shares

The promoter family of Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd (AHEL) is searching for a strategic partner in their education business, so that they can reduce their pledged shares in the listed company.

Pledged shares comprise 75 per cent of the family's total shareholding of 34 per cent after the promoters restructured their holding to keep Apollo Munich Health Insurance solvent.
The promoters will also look at bringing in investor for PCR Investments Ltd (PCRIL), a promoter company, if it gets good strategic investor. 

Suneeta Reddy, managing director of Apollo Hospitals Group, told Business Standard that the plan is to reduce the pledged shares to 50 per cent through the insurance stake sale and further down to 20 per cent in a year's time. The promoters are considering several options towards this, and looking at bringing in a strategic partner to the education business, which is independent from the listed entity AHEL.

"The primary aim is to bring down our pledge over next one year," she said. The education vertical consists of 13 nursing colleges and 2 medical colleges, apart from Apollo Medskill, and Apollo Medvarsity Online, which claims to be India’s first and largest online medical certification and training company. 

"The family has a lot of digital content that we are looking to grow. Clearly there are options available and we are hoping to take it forward, because I think education is an important space, but more important than that, we are interested in core healthcare," she told Business Standard. However, she said, it is premature to talk about the partnership now.

"The company is doing very well and I think what we are realising from Apollo Munich Insurance is also three times return of what we have invested. I think we have always invested in creating assets in healthcare and our focus remain on healthcare services. We are not looking at asset sales in the listed entity," added Reddy.

Commenting on the plans to bring in investor to the promoter company, she said, "If we get a good strategic investor to PCR Investments, yes we will look at it. But it will not be a significant dilution. Family will always retain control of Apollo Hospitals in the healthcare delivery space."

The promoter's pledged shares has went up over 75 per cent this month after the promoter family pledged their shares for solvency funding at Apollo Munich Health Insurance, in which Apollo Hospitals Group is selling its entire close to 50 per cent stake to HDFC. 

The pledge was made with Catalyst Trusteeship, acting on behalf of debenture holders including Credit Suisse, to the tune of 11.5 per cent of the total share capital of AHEL. The shares were pledged  as security for the non-convertible debentures issued by PCRIL, a public limited firm promoted by Apollo Hospitals Chairman Prathap C Reddy and his family.

Prior to this, almost 78 per cent of the promoter shares were pledged to unwind a deal with private equity player KKR, raising concerns in the market. The company then said that it would bring down the pledged shares to almost 35-40 per cent by the promoters in three to four months and further down over a period of time. 

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