HIMSS exhibitor bids to buy another

A good sign of future merger activity is that Merge Healthcare said it would step in front of the bid of a private equity firm for Amicas, which is in the business of automating imaging labs.

HIMSS, the health IT show that comes to Atlanta next week, is typically where hospital administrators go to buy the latest diagnostic and back-office gear.

This year the buyers won't be the only folks checking out the vendors. The vendors will be checking each other out.

Mergers have long been predicted in the health care IT space. Mainstream IT vendors are moving in, drawn by the promise of ARRA stimulus cash. Margins are tightening, with imaging centers under renewed pressure to contain costs.

A good sign of future merger activity is on display this week. Merge Healthcare, which itself was on the rack a few years ago, said it would step in front of the bid of a private equity firm for Amicas, which is in the business of automating imaging labs.

Merge is offering 13% than what Amicas accepted in December.

Ironically, what got Merge back on its feet was an open source standards strategy, opening up its software library to use by OEMs last year. This was followed in August by the all-stock purchase of Confirma, another health IT vendor in the CAD space. Last month it signed an alliance with Orion Health.

Amicas has given an initial rebuff to the proposal, calling it "illusory" and standing behind its previous deal with Thomas Brava.

Arbitrageurs, however, smell a deal. Amicas was bid up 25 cents per share this morning, and the company is now worth substantially more than Merge itself. It's the kind of thing Wall Street hasn't seen in a few years.

This won't be the only such story to be covered in the next few weeks. Corporate blood is in the water.

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