DaVita Inc., the fourth-largest dialysis provider, will buy Gambro AB's U.S. clinics for $3.1 billion in cash to become the kidney-treatment leader in the world's biggest healthcare market.

El Segundo-based DaVita will double the number of people using its services to 96,000 patients at more than 1,200 sites in the U.S. The addition of Gambro's operations will allow DaVita to overtake Fresenius Medical Care AG of Germany, whose 84,600 U.S. customers make it the current largest provider of dialysis treatment.

DaVita plans to finance the acquisition through a new credit facility and the issuance of notes, it said in a PR Newswire statement. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., its financial adviser, has committed financing for the transaction.
DaVita and Gambro expect to complete the transaction in the first half of 2005. The acquisition will add about 43,200 patients in 565 dialysis centers to DaVita's operations. After completion, DaVita will have combined sales of about $4.4 billion.

Gambro, today the world's No. 2 operator of dialysis centers, had about $1.9 billion in sales at its continuing operations in 2003 and will employ about 11,000 people after completion.

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