Big News in Home Health Care

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, June 19, 2008

You may or may not remember this golden oldie, but Almost Family (AFAM) was a teaser stock from Ann Sosnowski last year — and it’s finally coming into it’s own a little bit.

The sector has looked attractive for a long time, at least on a big picture basis — the demographic trends are undoubtedly going to increase revenues for home health care providers (though one could argue that nursing shortages and insurance and medicare hassles might cut margins for them).

The company has been built through small acquisitions, and remains fairly small itself, and it had a truly awful year — most especially, an awful summer last year, following Ann’s teaser rec. She started touting it in early June, when the shares were right around $25 as they are today … but inbetween then and now they spent a long time right around (and for a while, well below) $20 a share.

The news today? They’re buying another competitor, which they say will increase earnings per share in 2009 (not so much this year, though overall earnings will go up). The one they’re buying now is an East Coast provider called Patient Care, and it will bring them up to 89 locations in 11 states.

But perhaps of equal importance, Blackstone bought a home health care company today, too, for a 30% premium — it’s a relatively small buyout, Apria is the company and their market cap is under a billion dollars (though it’s about 4X larger than AFAM), but it’s another indication of the interest in the sector, and usually when there are two acquisitions in a day you don’t have to be a Mensa member to guess that the sector is riding a bit of a consolidation wave — partly, I’m sure, in preparation for big increases in baby boomer business a few years down the road.

Lincare (LNCR), Gentiva (GTIV), and probably any other ones you can find are also up today as a result. Still an interesting sector, though I’ve never owned shares in any of these (I do continue to own Blackstone shares, and this relatively small deal seems like a wise one to me, though it’s unlikely to move the BX needle much).

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