A news summary, focused on 10 big employers; updated 3:28 p.m.
HUMANA and Aetna now face an uphill battle persuading antitrust enforcers their planned $37 billion deal won’t harm competition, after high-level talks between the Justice Department and company officials yesterday ended without public word of their outcome. It isn’t clear when the agency will make a final call. Company officials have been preparing for a decision as soon as this month, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the matter that the newspaper didn’t identify. But officials also disclosed June 24 that they’d extended the deadline for completing the deal until the end of the year.
Humana’s stock has been reeling since news of the negotiations suddenly emerged mid-day Thursday; shares have fallen 11% since the day before. Aetna’s stock has fallen, too, but by a far smaller 2%, reflecting what investment bank JP Morgan said yesterday is the Louisville company’s greater downside risk if the deal collapses (chart, top).
JP Morgan downgraded Humana’s stock to “neutral” from “overweight,” after the probability of a deal approval declined well below a 50/50 chance, analyst Gary Taylor said. If the deal were not to happen, Humana’s shares could fall to a range of as low as $115 to $125. At $115, Humana would have sunk to the lowest level since May 6, 2014, when shares closed at $109.79.
That grim outlook isn’t universal. Wedbush Securities analyst Sarah James told CNBC: “We’re 80 to 90% confident that the Aetna deal is going to go through,” she said (CNBC).
The developments at Humana-Aetna and two other companies also planning a merger — Anthem and Cigna, for $48 billion — “are the latest signs that federal officials are worried about consolidation among health insurers,” the WSJ says. The deals “would reshape the top of the industry, collapsing five large insurers into three giant firms, each with annual revenues of more than $100 billion” (Wall Street Journal).
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