Community Health Systems Inc. may be on life support, but its largest shareholder isn’t ready to pull the plug.
That may be little comfort to other investors who bought in three years ago, when shares were trading above $50. It opened at just over $3 today.
But Shanda Asset Management Holdings Chairman Tianqiao Chen said in an interview the hospital chain is on the right track and a turnaround is a matter of when, not if.
“I think of it as a 10-year investment, 20-year investment, so what?” said Chen, who owns about 24% of the company. “Because we give them the confidence, give them time, and give them the safety, I believe at the end of day, we can have decent return.”
Representatives for Community Health didn’t immediate return requests for comment.
The billionaire, based in Menlo Park, California, knows the ups and downs of running a public company: A dozen years ago, Shanda was the largest internet company in China. In 2004, it became the largest U.S. initial public offering of a Chinese Internet company at that time. But the pressure was taking its toll on Chen, who later decided to take his company private and turn his focus to philanthropy. He allocated $1 billion for brain research.
Community Health’s social impact was a major motivator for Chen’s investment. “No other business has more impact on a community than a community hospital,” he said. The management, led by Chief Executive Officer Wayne Smith, “is the best operational team in the industry, so I have full confidence.”
The Franklin, Tennessee-based company recently gained a few more years of leeway after a debt exchange pushed its near-term debt obligations to 2023 and 2024. The company’s debt now stands at $15.1 billion, according to Bloomberg data.