Switzerland's largest private hospital group, Hirslanden Finanz, is to be sold to leading South Africa hospital group Medi-Clinic, it was announced on Thursday.
Hirslanden said they welcomed the SFr2.846 billion ($2.36 billion) deal, adding that it would help boost the group's standing in Switzerland.
"The management of the Hirslanden group... believe the merger of the two groups will support their strategy of continued investment in the group's position as Switzerland's leading provider of private acute healthcare," said a statement.
Hirslanden has 13 private clinics in Switzerland and employs around 4,500 staff. Some 109,000 patients are treated every year, according to the group.
Since 2002 it has been owned by private equity firm BC Partners. This period has seen an investment of more than SFr400 million in Hirslanden.
According to the group, revenues have grown by more than 30 per cent to over SFr900 million in 2006.
There are not expected to be any jobs cuts.
International hospital company
Medi-Clinic is South Africa's third-biggest hospital group. It said in a statement that its aim was to diversify geographically and to turn itself into a truly international hospital company. Hirslanden is its first venture into Europe.
The firm has recently acquired a controlling interest in Emirates Healthcare Holdings Limited, the largest private hospital group in the emirate of Dubai.
Hirslanden said it had entered a new phase of development by joining this international hospital group.
"For the first time in its company history, Hirslanden will be part of a global hospital group with a long-term strategy and with operation goals and a culture similar to its own," it said.
The acquisition is still subject to a number of conditions, with completion scheduled for October this year.
Swiss Leading Hospitals, an association of independent private hospitals, has criticised the deal.
Its president, Beat Huber, was quoted as saying in a statement that the owners of Hirslanden had just wanted to make a profit. This was a worrying development and harmed private medicine in the country, the statement added.
swissinfo with agencies
Third-largest private hospital group in South Africa
Largest private hospital group in Switzerland