NewsPoll: Buyers looking for bargains

Thursday, July 14, 2011

YARMOUTH, Maine - It may seem hard to believe, but despite all the crises in the industry, there are buyers out there looking to acquire HME companies, according to a recent HME NewsPoll.

Of the 146 people who responded to the poll, 58% said they had been approached by a potential buyer.

"I notice there is interest in acquiring companies that are small but still have a presence in the marketplace," said Bill Armstrong, president of American Oxygen Kompany in Centennial, Colo. "The companies also seem to have good reputations in this market."

Just who is it that's doing the buying? Sixty-six percent of poll respondents said it was a company from outside their local market; 16% said it was a local competitor; and 18% said it was a buyer from outside the industry.

But just because buyers are looking, doesn't mean providers are selling.

"I was approached by a local broker that said he had a buyer from another industry," said Lori Sears, owner of Active Home Medical Supply in Lapeer, Mich. "He wouldn't give me any details about the type of business they were looking to acquire nor was he interested in actually seeing our operation, so I wouldn't agree to meet with him."

Poll respondents suspect reimbursement cuts and competitive bidding have buyers hunting for bargains.

"It's been a fire sale," said one respondent. "The not-so-well run companies are leaving the market, making the regional and national companies get larger."

Echoes another: "It's mostly companies that are coming in and taking over failing companies right now. There seem to be many that are struggling."

Another trend driving acquisition: consolidation, not just among HME providers, but from ancillary industries looking to offer the full continuum of patient care.

"I am a hospital-based DME and a home health agency is offering to buy us," said one respondent.