October 28, 2010 / 3:46 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 2-Express Scripts says could seek to buy other PBMs

* Company nearing completion of NextRx integration

* Shares off 1.5 percent (Adds Prime Therapeutics comments)

By Lewis Krauskopf

NEW YORK, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Express Scripts Inc ESRX.O, which is finishing integration of a major deal, sees other pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) as attractive acquisitions at the right price, the company said on Thursday.

Asked on the company’s quarterly conference call about acquisition opportunities, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Hall said “there are other PBMs we think that would be very attractive.”

“There are PBMs we would like to own at the right price and the right terms,” Hall said, adding that this has been the company’s stance for several quarters.

The comments come as a source told Reuters earlier this week that Walgreen Co WAG.N has hired Bank of America to sell its PBM unit. The unit is expected to fetch between $300 million to $500 million, the source said. Analysts named Express as a potential suitor. [ID:nN25290408]

Hall declined to comment on the call about any specific rumors.

Another PBM may have its eye on in the unit, however. Eric Elliott, chief executive officer of privately held Prime Therapeutics, a large PBM owned by Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, told Reuters in an interview that the Walgreens unit might be of interest should it allow Prime to add capabilities such as directly serving potential employer clients.

“We would be interested if it were for sale,” Elliott said.

Express Scripts is nearing completion of integrating its $4.68 billion acquisition of WellPoint Inc’s WLP.N NextRx PBM unit, a deal that has been widely praised on Wall Street.

The St Louis-based company said on Wednesday it has now migrated more than 90 percent of the NextRx membership to its systems, up from 50 percent in the previous quarter, and it expects the migration to be complete by the end of this year.

“We think we’ve proven that we can integrate them better and faster than anybody else ... and when the opportunities are right we will execute,” Hall said on the call.

Express Scripts shares fell 1.5 percent to $48.52 on Nasdaq at mid-afternoon, after reporting third-quarter earnings on Wednesday that matched Wall Street estimates. Analysts said investors may have been hoping for a stronger quarter from the company, which raised only the low end of its full-year earnings forecast range. [ID:nN27216670] (Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf; Editing by Dave Zimmerman and Richard Chang)

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