Business Times

Asiri Hospitals eyeing Bangladesh

The Asiri Group of Hospitals, seeking to be a regional player in the medium term, is eyeing Bangladesh as their first stop, according to its Chairman and Managing Director Ashok Pathirage."We possess the expertise as the largest hospital group in Sri Lanka and we believe that Asiri has built a name regionally as the number one hospital group (in Sri Lanka). We're trying to leverage this and will be looking to manage hospitals regionally. We're thinking of Bangladesh (as a prospective stop)," he told the Business Times on the sidelines of a press conference to unveil its latest venture - The Central Hospital down Norris Canal Road.

The Asiri Group acquired a controlling stake of Asha Central (at Horton Place) in 2007 and renamed it Asiri Central Hospital. "We acquired this property as the Asha Central owned the Norris Canal property and we saw huge potential there," Mr. Pathirage said. He said the Horton Place property where Asiri Central was and, which is now vacant as all the services were shifted to The Central, will be sold at the 'correct' price. "We're looking to sell it by the end of this year," he added.

The Central has about Rs. 4 billion debt and the 200-bed hospital recently went for a Rs. 1.7 billion private placement in a bid to retire part of this debt with John Keells Holdings (JKH) buying a 25% stake. "Within the next six months The Central will raise about Rs. 700 million through an Initial Public Offering to retire more debt," Mr. Pathirage said.

Meanwhile, analysts said that JKH's investment in The Central is a strategic one and that JKH will sell part of it to book capital gains in the next few months. He said that Asiri has plans for Kandy and Jaffna and the development plans for the Kandy property they own will be accelerated within the next few months. "We're considering Jaffna and is looking for land there," he added.

He said The Central's price points are positioned at the same position as that of Asiri despite the facilities being at a higher level but in time to come it will increase. The Central has exceeded its project cost by Rs. 1 billion, to complete the building at Rs. 5.5 billion.

"This was because as we went along we improvised on the structure of the hospital," he said. Asiri Hospitals Group has three hospitals presently - Asiri Surgical, Asiri Hospital and Asiri Central.
Mr. Pathirage also said the Softlogic Group, where he's the chairman will invest in tourism and the finance sector in the medium term.

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