The fourth quarter of 2020 showed a marked increase in merger-and-acquisition (M&A) activity across healthcare, according to an advisory firm’s tracker. The proliferation of transactions suggests stakeholders’ interest in pursuing strategic opportunities even amid the financial downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hammond Hanlon Camp LLC (H2C) recorded 177 transactions in its healthcare M&A database in Q4 2020, a 21% increase over Q4 2019. There were 642 transactions for the year, exceeding the 2019 total by 10.
Of the Q4 2020 transactions, 22 involved hospitals — the same number as in Q4 2019.
As highlighted by H2C, notable hospital deals in 2020 included:
- WVU Health System's affiliation with Princeton Community Hospital and acquisition of Wheeling Hospital, which would be the system's 13th hospital
- The announcement that Sentara Healthcare and Cone Health will merge, creating a 17-hospital system with more than 2,400 physicians and advanced practice clinicians in Virginia and North Carolina
"Despite the pandemic, 2020 healthcare transaction volume surprised many, with a significant number of announced transactions in the second half of the calendar year,” Michael J. Tierney, director of H2C, said in a release.
“As the healthcare industry adjusts to the new normal, operators and investors are refocusing strategic initiatives and analyzing opportunities. Asset prices remain elevated, which has proven beneficial to sellers divesting non-core assets or owners looking for exit opportunities. We expect 2021 to remain active as service providers encounter new challenges and opportunities.”
Other sectors see spikes in activity
The big increases year-over-year were in the healthcare IT and post-acute care sectors.
Reflecting the impact of the pandemic, healthcare IT transactions increased from 32 in Q4 2019 to 46 in Q4 2020 and from 133 to 192 for the year. One especially noteworthy deal was finalized in October, when Teladoc completed its $18.5 billion acquisition of Livongo.
“Stakeholders hope combining two of the largest publicly traded virtual care companies will help capitalize on increasing digital health demand,” the H2C release states.
Post-acute care deals rose from 65 in Q4 2019 to 79 in Q4 2020, although volume still finished 2020 down 6% year-over-year.