Vanguard on the hunt in Connecticut

Company looks to add on to Boston-area network with deals for about $1B in revenues

Vanguard Health Systems this week said it is has signed a letter of intent to buy a Bristol, Conn., health system, its second such deal in the Constitution State this month.

Officials at Bristol Hospital and Health Care Group say the planned sale will help fund their renovation and expansion plans and bring to the table Vanguard's "financial resources, clinical excellence and innovative opportunities presented under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act." Bristol Hospital, which opened its doors in 1919, has about 120 beds and a network of other services, including a spine and pain center, skilled-nursing facility and a gastroenterology institute.

"Vanguard Health Systems brings a depth of experience in navigating markets with changing payer influences which will be very beneficial in preparing for health care reform," said Kurt Barwis, president and CEO of Bristol Hospital and Health Care Group.

The financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed.

Burton Hills-based Vanguard four weeks ago said it planned to take a majority stake in a new health system joint venture in nearby Waterbury. That deal could be finalized by the end of the year and would have Vanguard control 80 percent of the new entity and look to build out the services of what is now the Greater Waterbury Health Network.

The proposed acquisitions fit into Vanguard's strategy of building large networks in and around some of the country's largest cities, a strategy that's different from that of most of the other hospital operators based in Middle Tennessee. In recent years, the company has bought its way into Detroit and added to its holdings in Chicago and San Antonio, among others.

If Vanguard execs are able to close both of their proposed acquisitions, their new England network would reach from Boston's western suburbs about 110 miles southwest past Hartford, Conn., and comprise about 1,000 beds. In the fiscal year ended June 30, the company's three Boston-area facilities accounted for about $600 million of Vanguard's $5.9 billion of revenues. According to American Hospital Directory, the Waterbury and Bristol networks have annual combined revenues of about $1.1 billion.

Shares of Vanguard (Ticker: VHS) are up more than 5 percent in Thursday afternoon trading to $10.65, which is roughly where they traded prior to this month's presidential election. Year to date, they're up slightly, giving the company a market capitalization of about $825 million.