Blackstone to buy home healthcare provider for $1.6bn(3)

Apria Healthcare Group, which has 550 branches, has also secured a $280m credit facility in conjunction with the take-private, a positive sign for for the leveraged buyout world as healthcare continues to be a favored target.

The Blackstone Group has agreed to a $1.6 billion (€1 billion) take-private of home healthcare service provider Apria Healthcare Group.

The mega-buyout firm will pay Apria shareholders $21 per share, a premium of roughly 33 percent over the company's closing share price yesterday of $15.79 and a 29 percent premium over its 30 day average of $16.22.

Blackstone currently counts several healthcare-related companies among its portfolio, including Catalent Pharma Solutions and Southern Cross, which the firm acquired for $3.2 billion and $2.2 billion, respectively.

Apria has 550 branches scattered in all 50 states, and last year generated $1.6 billion in revenue. As of the first quarter of this year, the firm reported $1.6 billion in total assets and $1.1 billion in liabilities.

If approved by Apria shareholders in September, the takeover will close sometime in the second half of 2008, the Orange County-based company said in a statement.

The transaction will be financed through a combination of equity from Blackstone and leverage financing from Bank of America, Wachovia and Barclays Capital.

Those banks will also separately extend a $280 million credit facility to Apria, which will use the proceeds to fund repurchases of prior debt.

Blackstone declined to comment.

Apria's stock has dropped significantly amid uncertainty over whether government-provided health insurance programs like Medicare will continue to lower their compensation rates for home care services.