WebMD Health Corp. (Nasdaq: WBMD) agreed to be taken private by buyout firm KKR & Co. (NYSE: KKR) for about $2.8 billion, five months after hiring bankers to explore a possible sale.
Stockholders of the online health information company will receive $66.50 a share in cash, according to a statement. The price is 20 percent more than Friday’s closing level and 29 percent higher than where the shares traded in mid-February, when New York-based WebMD hired JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) to review strategic alternatives.
The sale caps months of speculation about whether WebMD, which went public 12 years ago and is now used by 75 million consumers each month, would find a buyer. In 2012, when the stock was trading near all-time lows, a sale attempt had fallen apart.
For KKR, the acquisition will add to a growing portfolio of health-related firms: Also on Monday, the private equity firm agreed to acquire a majority stake in nutritional supplements maker Nature’s Bounty Co. Its other healthcare investments include Air Medical Group Holdings and Arbor Pharmaceuticals LLC.
WebMD’s price has been volatile since the 2005 IPO, and KKR is paying just under the all-time high of $66.98 in May 2016. The stock had slumped in the second part of 2017, though, and was trading under $50 at the end of January. In March, activist investor Blue Harbour Group raised its stake in WebMD to 8.99 percent and disclosed talks with the company. The group’s founder and chief executive officer, Cliff Robbins, said at the time that WebMD was underpriced and was likely to appeal to multiple buyers.