India’s sovereign wealth fund, the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund Limited (NIIFL), on Thursday said that it has invested ₹2,100 crore in Bengaluru-headquartered Manipal Hospitals through its private equity fund NIIF Strategic Opportunities Fund (SOF), its first investment in the Indian healthcare sector.

The deal comes close on the heels of billionaire entrepreneur Ranjan Pai-led Manipal Hospitals acquiring Columbia Asia Hospitals in India for ₹2,100 crore last November, making it the country’s second-largest hospital chain after Chennai-based Apollo Hospitals.

At present, Manipal Hospitals operates and manages about 6,000 beds across 15 hospitals focussing on tertiary and quaternary care. The acquisition of Columbia Asia Hospitals gives Pai’s Manipal Hospitals inroads into Kolkata, Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Patiala, and Pune. Together, the combined entity will have a presence of 27 hospitals across 15 cities with over 7,300 beds and a pool of more than 4,000 doctors and over 10,000 employees. In January, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) cleared the deal.

Commenting on the funding, Sujoy Bose, managing director and chief executive officer, NIIF, said, “We are delighted to partner with Manipal Hospitals in their next phase of growth….The strong governance, processes and track record of Manipal Hospitals resonates well with NIIF’s investment philosophy. It is exciting to partner with a highly capable management team that has created one of the most efficient healthcare delivery platforms in the country.”

NIIF invests across asset classes such as infrastructure, private equity, and other diversified sectors in India. It manages over $4.5 billion of equity capital across its three funds: Master Fund, Fund of Funds and Strategic Opportunities Fund.

“We are very pleased to join hands with NIIF as Manipal Hospitals continues on its path to reach many more geographies and under-served communities to provide both access and superlative clinical outcomes. Investing in the healthcare sector requires a long-term outlook as well as a sensitivity to social responsibilities, and I am glad that in NIIF we have a partner who shares these perspectives,” said Ranjan Pai, chairman, Manipal Education and Medical Group, in a statement.

A doctor by training, Pai is better known as a savvy investor and successful entrepreneur who has built Manipal Hospitals as an established hospital chain in a short span.

In early 2018 when Fortis Healthcare was put on the block, it seemed for a moment that Manipal Health Enterprises had clinched the deal. But, as it turned out, after several twists and turns, in a months-long bidding war for control of Fortis, Pai eventually lost the race to Malaysia-based IHH Healthcare. Acquiring Fortis Healthcare would have catapulted Manipal Hospitals into the position of the biggest player in the healthcare space in India, ahead of Apollo Hospitals. But that didn’t stop him from pursuing his pan-India ambition.

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