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UnitedHealth mulls Aetna acquisition

UnitedHealth mulls Aetna acquisition

UnitedHealth Group Inc., the largest U.S.-based publicly traded health insurer, has expressed interest in acquiring rival insurer Aetna Inc., the Wall Street Journal reported.

UnitedHealth Group approached Aetna about a potential takeover in a letter sent within the last several days, according to the Wall Street Journal’s report, adding to a recent spate of rumored mergers among the nation’s five largest health insurers.

“While no official transaction has been announced, we do view consolidation among the major insurers as a significant possibility and a positive from an operational standpoint,” Vishnu Lekraj, a Chicago-based senior research analyst at Morningstar Inc., said in an investors’ report Tuesday.

UnitedHealth and Aetna did not respond to requests for comment.

A separate Wall Street Journal report said on Monday that Cigna Corp. recently rejected two purchase offers from Anthem Inc., the latter of which would have valued Cigna at $45.03 billion, more than $5 billion above its market capitalization as of Tuesday afternoon.

Additionally, Aetna, Cigna and Anthem are all rumored to have expressed interest in purchasing Humana Inc. as recently as last month.

“The increased size and diversity of membership obtained as a result of a merger between any of the major (insurers) would add to the long-term economic profitability of a potential new entity,” Mr. Lekraj said.

Among the five largest insurers, Mr. Lekraj said Anthem is the most likely to acquire one of its rivals, while Humana is the most likely to be acquired.

“However, we would not be surprised see any of these players either acquire or be acquired by the others,” he added.

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