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UnitedHealth clears hurdle toward $1.58 billion EMIS acquisition

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | August 16, 2023
Business Affairs European News Health IT
The Competition and Markets Authority has provisionally cleared UnitedHealth's proposed acquisition of EMIS.
Following two investigations, UnitedHealth appears on track to move forward with its acquisition of U.K. healthcare technology company EMIS, with Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority provisionally clearing the £1.24 billion ($1.58 billion) deal.

The companies announced their intention to merge in June 2022, saying the deal would provide better services to the country’s National Health System (NHS), with EMIS to come under the management of Optum UK, a part of UnitedHealth, according to Reuters.

To assuage anticompetitive concerns, UnitedHealth offered to divest Optum UK’s domestic Medicines Optimisation and Population Health Management businesses, but CMA rejected this in its initial merger inquiry back in March, saying it did not go far enough, and initiated a Phase 2 investigation to be carried out by an independent panel.

EMIS specializes in software development for operational and data management support for primary care, community pharmacy, and A&E care settings among others. It supplies electronic health record systems used by the majority of NHS GPs in the U.K. while Optum provides software used by GPs to prescribe medicine, data analytics, and advisory services.

They do not compete with one another directly. Optum uses data that EMIS holds, and integrates its own software with EMIS’ EHR system to compete in various markets, including population health management services and medicine optimization software sales.

Because of this, the Phase 1 investigation identified concerns that the merger risked creating worse outcomes within the NHS by reducing competition, but the independent panel for the Phase 2 probe found the deal posed no competition concerns between specialist healthcare technology and software companies that provide services to the NHS.

“After carefully considering a broad range of evidence, we have provisionally found that this deal is not expected to harm competition or adversely affect patients,” said Kirstin Baker, chair of the independent inquiry panel, in a statement made by CMA.

UnitedHealth is no stranger to antitrust scrutiny. Previously announcing a $13 million acquisition of Change Healthcare in January 2021, the company spent almost two years going head-to-head in an extensive legal battle with the U.S. Department of Justice before getting the green light to proceed with the deal, which it completed in October 2022.

CMA will publicly review its provisional findings and announce a final decision by October 5. Those interested in commenting on the deal must submit responses by September 1.

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