Monday, September 30, 2002

CLEARWATER, Fla - You want to sell your business fast - for cash? Has Lincare got a deal for you.

As part of its marketing program, the respiratory giant began advertising that message last month in HME News.

"Selling your business wasn't a fast decision but the sale can be." The ad goes on to promise a "professional and efficient process which takes only 30 days." And ends with "Confidential Discussions – Cash Sale."

Lincare declined to discuss the ad, beyond commenting that it is part of an "integrated communications strategy to reinforce the company's acquisition program."

But, said one industry watcher: "This is an absolutely perfect marketing strategy on their part. For someone who just wants it done, this is like giving them a turnkey package to sell their business."

Of course, by not working through a broker and testing the market, there's no guarantee sellers are getting top dollar for their companies. That could be part of Lincare's strategy. By not competing with other buyers, Lincare may not have to pay top dollar, sources say.

The ad, or variations of it, are scheduled to run this month and next. While Lincare declined to comment, the ads most likely serve a couple of purposes, say industry sources.

First, even for a star performer like Lincare, same-store growth is difficult. Patients don't live forever, and there are only a finite number of patients in any market. Therefore, in order to meet Wall Street's expectations, it's imperative that Lincare continue to acquire companies to replace patients who die and add new ones for top- and bottom- line growth.

Secondly, the ads may help give Lincare an edge in its quest for market share.

"I run up against Apria and Lincare in almost every acquisition we do," said Mark Hanley, CEO of HME roll-up O2 Science in Tempe, Ariz. "The ads don't surprise me."

Finally, added another industry source: "Cash is king, like it always is. I don't think a deal is any different." HME