Sep. 19--Subtle hints mixed with an eerie sense of deja-vu seem to be pointing to a leveraged buyout down the road for Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.
"It would probably be a wise move," says John Runningen, an Atlanta- based health care analyst turned venture capitalist.
Columbia spokesman Jeff Prescott says the company has no plans to go private, but he did not rule out the possibility.
"A lot of people have been asking about it because of the history of HCA," which performed its own leveraged buyout in 1989, Prescott says.
Signs of such a move from public to private ownership are already starting to appear, portending a repeat of history.
Fidelity Investments, the Boston-based mutual fund colossus, recently upped its stake in Columbia despite headlines heralding indictments of midlevel executives and resignations of the company's top brass.
According to the latest filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Fidelity owns 10.37 percent of Columbia's more than 800 million common shares outstanding, up from 7.19 percent at the end of June.