KKR to buy WebMD for $2.8 billion

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., the private equity giant that sold most of its stock in HCA a year ago, agreed Monday to acquire WebMD for about $2.8 billion, KKR announced Monday.

KKR is paying $66.50 per share for publicly traded WebMD, a 20% premium over WebMD’s closing price Friday of $55.26.

WebMD’s shares jumped to $65.98 by 11 a.m. ET Monday.

WebMD is the nation’s largest online health information portal, serving consumers and clinicians with public and private sites and publications.

The company’s board and management put the business up for sale in February when its stock was trading about 30% below KKR’s offer Monday.

KKR’s Internet Brands is the umbrella company buying WebMD. KKR will begin a tender offer of the shares within 10 days, it said in a release Monday.

The private equity firm, which has about $100 billion under management, is no stranger to healthcare. It was one of the main investment groups that took hospital chain HCA private in 2006, then public again in a 2011 initial public offering.

A year ago, KKR sold back to HCA about 9.4 million of HCA’s common shares for $750 million.

Despite the divestiture of shares, KKR remains one of HCA’s largest institutional shareholders with 5.2 million shares outstanding or 1.5% of its stock as of Dec. 31, according to Morningstar.

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