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HMA hires advisers in response to activist push

By Jessica Toonkel

(Reuters) - Hospital operator Health Management Associates has hired Morgan Stanley and law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges after hedge fund Glenview Capital Management urged it to remove or amend its poison pill and said it might try to replace members of its board.

Glenview, which says it owns 14.6 percent of HMA's stock, is requesting that the Naples, Florida-based hospital operator either get rid of its poison pill or increase the percentage of stock a person would be permitted to own without triggering the poison pill.

Glenview wants HMA to increase that percentage to 25 percent from the current 15 percent, according to a document filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

In addition, Glenview said it is evaluating whether to propose making changes to HMA's board of directors, according to the filing.

HMA said it hired Morgan Stanley and Weil Gotshal in response to Glenview's effort, "as well as the Board's ongoing consideration of strategic alternatives and opportunities available to HMA," according to a company statement released after the market close on Wednesday.

The company said on May 28 that Chief Executive Gary Newsome will retire on July 31 and step down from the board, prompting speculation that HMA may be an acquisition target.

In Wednesday's statement, HMA emphasized that its search committee was interviewing candidates to replace Newsome.

Glenview declined to comment.

HMA's shares gained 11.3 percent to close at $15.51 on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Jessica Toonkel in New York; editing by Matthew Lewis)

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