UnitedHealth Group is in talks to acquire a health plan based in Chile that would expand the Minnetonka-based insurer's international health care business.
The deal for Banmedica S.A. would include paying about $2.8 billion for the Chilean company plus assuming $520 million in debt, according to a research note this week from analysts at Deutsche Bank.
UnitedHealth Group already is a large operator of hospitals and clinics in Brazil via its 2012 deal to acquire one of that country's largest private health insurers.
"There are specific terms under discussion but no formal agreement at this time, and no guarantee this process will end with an agreement to combine," UnitedHealth Group said in a statement. "Banmedica is one of the largest private health groups in Chile, Colombia and Peru, with 25 years of expertise in Latin America."
Banmedica disclosed the talks to regulators late last week. The company generated annual revenue in 2016 of more than $2 billion, wrote Ana Gupte, an analyst with Leerink, in a note to investors.
About 890,000 people have health insurance from Banmedica, Gupte wrote, adding that the company includes five hospitals.
"The expected timing of the close is not clear," Gupte wrote. But she added that Banmedica "shareholders have accepted a period of exclusivity of negotiation in benefit of [UnitedHealth Group] that will be extended until the middle of November of 2017."
UnitedHealth Group is the largest health insurer in the United States through a division called UnitedHealthcare.
The company also operates a health services division called Optum.
When UnitedHealth Group announced that Dave Wichmann would become the company's new chief executive this month, officials noted that Wichmann led the company's activities in Brazil and other global markets.
They described the international operation as the "third leg" of UnitedHealth Group's long-term strategy.
UnitedHealth Group is on track for revenue in excess of $200 billion this year. At that figure, the company estimates it would account for less than 3 percent of the estimated $7 billion in global health care spending per year.
In 2012, UnitedHealth Group bought a majority stake in Amil Participacoes, Brazil's top health insurer, for $4.9 billion.
At the time, Amil operated 22 hospitals and nearly 50 clinics.
By late 2015, the Brazil operation had grown to 31 hospitals, and UnitedHealth Group was reportedly on track to pay about $350 million for a hospital in the Brazilian city of Sao Paolo.