Judge: West Penn can't seek other potential buyers

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A judge says the Pittsburgh-based West Penn Allegheny Health System can't seek other potential buyers, in granting an injunction requested by Highmark Inc. which still hopes to complete a $475 million takeover of the hospital network.

West Penn executives contend Highmark's insistence that West Penn file for bankruptcy to reduce nearly $1 billion in debt is a deal breaker.

But Allegheny County Judge Christine Ward says the merger deal requires West Penn to give Highmark 30 days to repair any perceived breach of contract -- but West Penn, instead, unilaterally backed out of the deal.

West Penn wanted to woo other potential buyers and still keep $200 million health insurer Highmark has already invested in the deal.

Instead, Ward's ruling preserves the status quo and prevents West Penn from fielding or soliciting other takeover offers.