Tenet shares dive as company reveals Conifer sale still in process

Tenet Healthcare shares deepened losses in Tuesday trading after the company announced during its second-quarter earnings call it is still working to offload its subsidiary Conifer Health Solutions.

The for-profit hospital operator, which is in the middle of a cost-reduction plan, said it would make a decision in the first half of 2018 on the sale of Conifer, which provides software, debt collection and other services to hospitals and physician groups. The subsidiary produced $404 million in sales last quarter.

“As to the potential sale of Conifer, we continue the effort of engaging with a few down selected bidders,” Tenet CEO Ronald Rittenmeyer said during the call. “We continue to engage with these bidders on a contract framework between Tenet and a potential new owner.”

Ana Gupte, senior health-care services analyst at Leerink Partners, told CNBC that investors were disappointed with the timing and sale process of Conifer. Brian Tanquilut, health-care services equity researcher at Jefferies, told CNBC last week “a sale is one thing that would help deliver on the balance sheet and generate some value in a multiple above what the stock is trading at.”

After falling about 3 percent during premarket trading, Tenet shares fell over 15 percent in Tuesday trading, closing at $32.41 per share. The stock slid steadily during Tenet’s earnings conference call with shareholders. “I wouldn’t say they weren’t committed to selling [Conifer]. But they opened up the door to not selling it,” Tanquilut told CNBC on Tuesday.

The company’s stock had risen over 154 percent this year as of Monday’s close at $38.55 per share.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that UnitedHealth Group was among the possible buyers of Conifer. Tenet did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

After the close of trading on Monday, Tenet reported adjusted earnings of 49 cents a share, nearly double Wall Street’s expectation, according to FactSet. While Tenet reported a 3.2 percent increase from the same period a year ago in same-hospital net patient revenue, hospital admissions declined 2.3 percent.

“Declines in Chicago and Detroit also lowered growth this quarter,” Tenet chief financial officer Daniel Cancelmi said during the call.

U.S. hospitals have suffered from a slump in admissions as more Americans seek cheaper treatment from pharmacies, outpatient clinics and other nontraditional care centers.