The emergence of Manor Care Inc. as one of the nation's leading nursing home chains hasn't satiated the company's desire to grow.

After recently completing the $209 million acquisition of Cenco Inc., which made Manor Care the nation's fourth largest nursing home chain, the formerly cash-rich company is looking for ways to reduce $90 million in debt from the takeover. Reduced debt levels would make it possible for the company to act swiftly in future acquisitions, company officials said.

The Cenco acquisition increased the number of Manor Care facilities from 23 nursing homes in nine states to 105 facilities in 19 states. The number of beds increased from 3,461 to 13,825.

Finance committee Chairman Stewart Bainum Jr. said the company plans to sell eight Cenco subsidiaries that have no relation to health care. These subsidiaries and 14 nursing homes that the company also plans to sell will produce about $40 million, Bainum said.

The Silver Spring-based firm's marketing strategy should protect it from government cuts and the resulting inability of many middle and lower income elderly persons to afford nursing home care, analysts said.

Manor Care's target market is the affluent elderly who can pay nursing home bills without assistance. While about 63 percent of the residents in a typical nursing home rely on Medicare and Medicaid to cover costs, only 40 percent of the patients in Manor Care facilities depend on government aid.

"I think they're the cream of the crop in the industry . . . because their emphasis on patients who pay privately makes them stand out," said Louis E. Hannen, analyst with Wheat, First Securities.

"The stock remains speculative due to the high level of debt from the Cenco acquisition and also because of the major turnover at the top levels of management," Hannen said.

In April, J. Calvin Kaylor, who was president of Manor Care Corp., left to go to work for Beverly Enterprises Inc., the nation's largest nursing home chain. In May, Jack R. Anderson, who was president of the Manor Care Inc. holding company, resigned to pursue personal business ventures.

Chairman Stewart Bainum (father of the chairman of the company's finance committee), who increased his personal holdings in Manor Care stock to about 40 percent after the company acquired Quality Inns International last year, now is acting as both chairman and president of Manor Care.

In addition to a program to build 10 nursing homes a year in affluent metropolitan areas ("especially in Florida"), Manor Care is developing a chain of alcoholic rehabilitation centers.

The company owns three rehabilitation centers, with an average 35 beds, and operates a 20-bed program in a St. Petersburg, Fla., hospital. Manor Care recently acquired the Red Fox Inn in Kennett Square, Pa., and plans to convert the facility into its fifth rehabilitation center.

"Our 28-day programs are for the white collar alcoholic," said Stephen Silver, Manor Care's vice president of marketing. "We plan to develop new facilities through acquisition of existing buildings which we can convert into alcoholic rehabilitation centers."

Manor Care owns a 120-bed hospital near Dallas. Plans to build a 46-bed addition also were approved recently. The company would like to increase its share of the hospital market but is finding "penetration tough due to intense competion," Silver said.

Manor Care reported net income of $10.2 million ($1.53 a share) on revenues of $261.35 million for the year ended May 31 versus net income of $6.94 million ($1.24) on revenues of $91.66 million the previous year. The dramatic increases reflect earnings and revenues of Cenco for seven months of the year and the first full year that Quality Inns' earnings have been included.

Quality Inns, a division of Manor Care, is the nation's seventh largest hotel chain. It consists of 419 owned, managed and franchised hotels with 50,640 rooms.