REITs continue buying binge: Ventas spends $7.4 billion for Nationwide Health Properties ...

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Ventas announced Monday that it was on the verge of becoming the largest healthcare real estate investment trust in the country by buying Nationwide Health Properties for $7.4 billion. The stock deal, which is expected to close in the third quarter of 2011, pending regulatory and shareholder approvals, would leave Ventas with ownership of more than 1,300 facilities in 47 states and two Canadian provinces.

Ventas, the main landlord of Kindred Healthcare's nursing facilities, would own about 65% of the combined companies. Its chairwoman and CEO, Debra Cafaro, would remain the top exec. Newport Beach, CA-based Nationwide Health Properties' holdings include more than 200 skilled nursing facilities, among other assets.

Monday's announcement comes on the heels of Ventas agreeing last October to buy Atria Senior Living Group — the fourth-largest assisted living property operator in the United States — for $3.1 billion. In December, Ventas completed a $186 million deal to buy 58 senior living communities from Sunrise Senior Living.