The largest hospital chain in Germany, Rhön Klinikum, is expecting the recession to trigger a number of hospital privatisations and plans to raise 460 million euros (US$644 million) in fresh capital and boost its equity base by one third so it is ready for buying opportunities.
The chain expects the recession to mirror the events of 2002 and 2003, when private operators lifted their share of the market to 13.5%, compared to 7.4% in 2000, as public assets were sold.
According to the chief executive, Wolfgang Pföhler, Rhön spent 960 million euros (US$1,345 million) on 20 hospitals between 2002 and 2006, and it now runs 48 clinics and has control of 3.0% of all hospital beds in Germany.
Mr Pföhler said that he expected the non-profit sector to maintain its market share but suggested the market share of publicly owned institutions could shrink notably. He believes Rhön can more than double its share of beds to 8.0% in the coming years and the chain aims to offer a nationwide service eventually.
In 2005, Rhön became the first private operator in Europe to take over a university hospital and its research department. It has since pledged to invest almost 400 million euros (US$560 million) in the facility in Giessen and Marburg, central Germany.
However, Mr Pföhler conceded that Rhön faces stiff competition from its two main German rivals, Helios Kliniken, owned by Fresenius, and Asklepios Kliniken, which each control around 3.0% of beds.
Further reading - An in-depth analysis of the German pharmaceutical market, including some background information on the hospital sector, is available from Espicom: The Pharmaceutical Market: Germany (published June 2009)