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5 located in Brevard, Hendersonville, Burnsville, Newland

By Jonathan Austin,

Located in Burnsville, Yancey House is one of 18 senior-living centers in North Carolina to have been recently purchased by a Chinese company. Others are located in Avery, Henderson and Transylvania counties. Photo courtesy of Yancey County News.

A Chinese company has purchased 18 senior living centers in North Carolina, including two in Brevard, one in Hendersonville and one in Burnsville. Chevalier International Holdings Ltd., a Hong Kong-based company, bought the facilities from Formation Capital of Alpharetta, Ga.

The total purchase price was $124 million.

The WNC facilities that changed hands are Cedar Mountain House and Kingsbridge House in Brevard, Cherry Springs Village in Hendersonville, Yancey House in Burnsville, and Cranberry House senior living in Newland.

The manager at the Burnsville facility confirmed that the property and building were sold in late December. “Chevalier did purchase the land and the building,” Yancey House Executive Director Ashley Gardner told the Yancey County News. “Everything still continues to run the same. At this point we don’t know of any changes.”

Yancey House will continue to be operated by Meridian Senior Living, Gardner said. Meridian could not be contacted to determine whether the 17 other centers will continue to be operated by the Hickory-based firm.

In a prospectus posted online, Chevalier noted that the company “entered into senior housing business in the U.S. by acquiring three senior housing properties” in Oregon in June 2011, “and has since recorded an occupancy rate at near 90 percent as well as revenue of $16.5 million … for the nine months ended 31 March, 2012.

“With the growing aged population and steady rise in healthcare expenditure in the U.S., the directors anticipate that demand for senior citizen housing is to increase and this operation will continue to generate a stable operating income and offer capital appreciation potential of those properties in the future.”

Chevalier noted that “the 75-plus aged population is expected to increase by approximately 205,794 – or 36.2 percent – from July 2012 through to July 2020” in North Carolina, according to projections by the Office of State Budget and Management of North Carolina.

“In light of the above, the directors are optimistic about the prospects of the operations of the properties and consider that it is an opportune time to acquire the properties to further diversify the group’s property portfolio. The directors are also of the view that the proposed acquisition would generate stable operating income, provide capital appreciation potential to the group, and defend the group from economic depression by diversifying its portfolio to a relatively defensive property investment.”

Other North Carolina senior facilities involved in the purchase are in Albemarle, Roxboro, Yanceyville, Raleigh, Edenton, Hayesville, Winston-Salem, Wendell, Charlotte, Clinton, Gastonia, Williamston and Windsor.

According to a company profile by the Bloomberg business and financial website, “Chevalier International Holdings Limited, through its subsidiaries, provides building and engineering services. The Company also trades motor vehicles and Information Technology (IT) and business machines. In addition, Chevalier operates property, hotel and insurance business as well as provides IT services.”

Dr. Todd Creasy, a professor at Western Carolina University who specializes in human resources, operations management, health care and mergers and acquisitions, said the investment in U.S. senior care facilities is “a very smart investment” for the Hong Kong-based company.

“If you look at the baby boom bubble, this bulge is only going to get larger. It’s actually a prudent investment in this sector of our economy.”

Creasy said Pacific Rim influences might be beneficial for health care and elder care in the U.S. “People from Pacific rim nations tend to honor and value their older members of society more than the west. As it pertains to the (elder care) facility, even though they are keeping the same management team, if those values cross cultures and become part of their operating philosophy, the care could theoretically improve.” Creasy was quick to say that the current care might be top notch. “I’m not saying the Americans are doing anything wrong, but based upon empirical studies, Pacific nations honor their older members. If the Chinese do to this industry what the Japanese did to the auto industry, the care may improve” just as auto manufacturing improved.

Creasy said international investment in American health care could “be a growing trend. They see the aging population” and the return on investment as more Americans seek assisted living facilities. “If you are cash flush, as the Chinese are, then you are looking abroad for smart investments. They’re targeting either a certain population or a certain level of income. It’s a very smart investment.”

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The Yancey County News is a weekly newspaper based in Burnsville and serving Yancey County.

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