Seattle-based Columbia Pacific Management is reportedly looking at selling one of its hospital operators in Asia in a transaction that could take the value of the hospital business to up to $2bn.

Bloomberg exclusively reported citing people familiar with the matter that the investment firm is looking at many options including its sale or initial public offering.

In Asia, Columbia Asia owns about 30 hospitals and clinics in Malaysia, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The investment firm, which is working with advisers, may begin the process by early 2019, according to unnamed sources.

There is an increasing demand for private hospitals in Asia due to growing middle-class and rich consumers, who are seeking better medical care services.

With private insurance picking up pace in markets such as India and China, there is  a shortage of hospital beds.

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The auction may see participation of private equity firms and hospital operators.

Columbia Asia opened its first hospital in 1996.

Earlier this year, it raised $210m from investors such as Mitsui & Co. to widen its footprint.

In March, the investment firm stated that it would have 45 hospitals and two clinics by 2025, which would take the count of beds from 2,600 to over 4,000.

In China, Columbia Pacific, the parent company of Columbia Asia, owns a separate healthcare unit.