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FTC Takes Aim at Surgery Practice Merger

(CN) - Symbion must divest a Florida asset to complete its $792 million merger with a national chain of outpatient surgery centers, federal regulators said.

The Federal Trade Commission brought the settled complaint Friday against HIG Bayside Debt & LBO Fund II, the parent of Surgery Center Holdings. In addition to the conssent onder, the government posted a related order.

Surgery Partners, as the parent company is more commonly known, plans to acquire Nashville-based Symbion from Crestview Partners, part of a wave of consolidation in the physician surgery center market.

Crestview is also named as a respondent to the FTC's complaint.

Regulators say "the merger would combine ownership of the only two multi-specialty ASCs [ambulatory surgery centers] in Orange City, Florida."

"These ASCs are two of the three largest providers of outpatient surgical services to commercially insured patients in a relevant geographic market that approximates southwestern Volusia County and includes the cities of Orange City and Deltona, Florida," the complaint states.

Symbion's addition will put Surgery Parners in control of about 100 ambulatory surgery centers and surgical hospitals with physician partners in 27 states.

Because of the risk that the merger will eliminate substantial competition in the ASC market for the Orange City/Deltona area, Surgery Partners must divest Symbion's ownership interest in the Blue Springs Surgery Center in Orange City, Fla.

That sale to a commission-approved buyer must occur within 60 days of the issuance of the agency's final order.

Between now and then, the FTC will publish the consent agreement in the Federal Register. It will then be subject to public comment until Dec. 2, 2014.

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