Australia's Healthscope, Symbion on Trading Halt

Shares in Australian health sector takeover target Symbion Health and its suitor Healthscope were placed on trading halts on Monday, ahead of a market announcement.

Symbion and Healthscope are awaiting a key ruling from the Australian Taxation Office on whether shareholders can receive capital gains tax relief under Healthscope's A$2.8 billion (US$2.4 billion) offer.

A positive ruling is expected to pave the way for the proposed bid to proceed.

Symbion shareholders will vote on the offer on Friday. The vote will be subject to a positive ruling on capital gains, if the Tax Office's decision has not been released before then.

Symbion intends to proceed with the Friday meeting despite calls by rival bidder Primary Health Care to postpone the meeting.

Symbion said last Friday that Primary had lost a legal challenge against it over Symbion's tie-up with Healthscope.

Primary has launched a rival, hostile cash bid that values Symbion at A$2.7 billion, in a long-drawn out battle for lucrative assets in the healthcare sector.

The bidding war is the latest in a year-long battle for pathology and diagnostic imaging assets in Australia, coveted as Australians age and increasingly rely on private healthcare.