Apria denies rumor: ‘There is no transaction pending’

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

LAKE FOREST, Calif. - A New York Post story that claims Apria has hired bankers and is “quietly exploring” a possible sale of the company is untrue, Apria stated in a release issued July 30.

On July 29, the New York Post, which feeds on scandal, rumor and celebrity, cited “sources familiar with the matter” and reported that: “Within the last few months, Apria has held talks with several investment firms, including Blackstone Group, Warburg Pincus and Madison Dearborn Partners, about buying the company and taking it private.”

As a matter of policy, Apria does not comment on rumors and speculation concerning transactions that involve the company. However, in light of speculative trading in Apria stock following publication of the New York Post story, Apria made an exception to its policy on this occasion, the company stated.

Apria’s release read:

Apria does receive inquiries from time to time concerning the possible acquisition of the Company, and in the exercise of their fiduciary duty Apria’s board of directors considers, from time to time, whether the best interests of stockholders would be served by pursuing such a transaction. At this time, there is no transaction pending and Apria is not engaged in any effort looking to, or negotiations with any party concerning, a sale of the Company.

News in the Post, which most pundits consider a notch or two below the Wall Street Journal, hardly merits betting the farm. In early July, the scoop-driven Post reported that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry had chosen Sen. Dick Gephardt, as his vice presidential running mate. Not so. Kerry chose Sen. John Edwards.

If Apria has been exploring a possible sale, it’s news to industry watchers.

“I haven’t heard anything, but any deal like that would be held pretty close to the vest,” said one industry insider. “But if someone came up with the right offer, I’m sure they’d evaluate it.”

Added another source: “Wall Street is driven by rumors, but sometimes where there is smoke there is fire.”

The Post story reported that “sources familiar with the situation said that up until recently Blackstone had been shaping up as the leading contender for Apria, but talks have since cooled down.”

Although exact terms of a possible sale aren’t known, people familiar with the situation said a deal for Apria could be worth roughly $2 billion, the Post reported.

Apria generates nearly $1.4 million in annual revenue.