Ventas fights for deal to buy Sunrise REIT

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Officials with Ventas have ratcheted up the battle to preserve their deal to buy Sunrise Senior Living Real Estate Investment Trust. Ventas announced Thursday it had filed an application in Ontario Superior Court demanding that Sunrise REIT abide by their sale agreement reached in January.

Health Care Property Investors (HCP) submitted two similar bids for Sunrise REIT this month, the latter worth $1.2 billion (U.S.) on Feb. 14. According to HCP, the bid represents a 20% premium over the price Ventas and Sunrise REIT agreed to a month earlier.

Calls seeking comment from Sunrise REIT and HCP were not immediately returned Thursday. Previous statements from Sunrise seemed to leave the door open to considering HCP's overtures, if certain conditions were met. Ventas claimed in its court filing Thursday, however, that HCP was bound by a confidentiality and "standstill" agreement that prevents it from making proposals to buy Sunrise REIT until May 2008.

A Ventas statement on Thursday said the REIT intends to fight for the completion of its "signed, binding purchase agreement" with Sunrise, which was unanimously recommended by a special committee of Sunrise REIT's board of trustees. Ventas added that its purchase deal was the result of an "extensive" auction process in which HCP also had taken part.

Sunrise REIT owns 74 senior living properties. Ventas owns 454 facilities, of which the biggest subgroup (218) is nursing homes. HCP owns 471 facilities. The majority of them (337) are senior housing facilities.