Tianqiao Chen, a Chinese billionaire who made his initial fortune in online gambling, has purchased a 9.9% stake in troubled hospital giant Community Health Systems, according to a regulatory filing Monday.
Chen, through affiliate Shanda Media Limited, reported on Aug. 3 that he had accumulated 11.3 million shares of Franklin, Tenn.-based CHS, the filing said. His purchase, made since June 30, makes Chen CHS' largest shareholder ahead of Wellington Management's 8.5 million shares as of June 30, according to Morningstar.
CHS this month posted a $1.43 billion loss, or $12.90 per share, from continuing operations in the second quarter as it took a non-cash write-down of goodwill on the sinking value of hospitals it had acquired over the years.
The company, the nation's second-largest investor-owned hospital system, also is negotiating to sell 12 underperforming hospitals to raise about $850 million to retire debt.
Chen's Singapore-based private investment company Shanda Group has made a major investment in another distressed company, Lending Club. In June, Shanda raised its stake in the peer-to-peer lender to 15.1% from 11.7% two days after Lending Club's CEO was forced out.
A year ago, CHS' stock price was trading at about $60 a share. It closed Friday at $10.94. Phone and email messages to a CHS spokeswoman were not immediately returned.
CHS has struggled to gain control of operating problems, particularly at the 61 hospitals acquired for $3.9 billion in 2014 as part of Health Management Associates. That has hurt earnings since last autumn and prompted the sale of more hospitals.
Some of those hospitals were divested in the April spin-off of Quorum Health Corp., a group of 38 rural hospitals that CHS determined would operate better as a separate company.
This month, Larry Cash, CHS' chief financial officer, said that of the 153 hospitals CHS operates, 61 former HMA hospitals operated by CHS continue to post revenue and earnings below that of CHS' 92 legacy hospitals.
Problems are particularly acute at some of the former HMA hospitals in Florida, which CHS has tried to buttress by recruiting more physicians and putting management attention there, Cash said.
Reuters said in its Lending Club article on Chen that the billionaire rose to the list of China's richest people with a $60,000 investment in video games in the late '90s.